By James Kay
By the time Lyons Township High School finished in sixth place at the IHSA state meet for boys swimming, head coach Erin Rodriguez had lost her voice from yelling by the side of the pool.
There was plenty to celebrate as the Lions followed up their fifth-place finish from last year with another top-six placement at state - -the fourth year in a row the program has accomplished that feat.
After not having most of their team together until mid-January, Rodriguez had an inkling that her team could get back on track once everyone came together.
"This year, I knew they had a chance to do well, but they swam lights out on Friday," said Rodriguez. "After [preliminaries], they came out pumped up and ready to go. It was remarkable to be a part of that and watch them put in everything they had."
The 20- yard freestyle relay team placed first, racking up 32 points, as seniors Jack Thorell, Bryson Breitenbucher, Jack Wanless and junior Michael Schoneman put up a time of 1 minute, 22.70 seconds.
The 400 freestyle relay team of Thorell, Wanless, Breitenbucher and junior Tomas Samuolis placed fourth at 3:06.91, missing third place by 0.18 seconds to Oak Park and River Forest (3:06.73).
Thorell finishes strong
Thorell made the most of his final trip to state as a member of the LTHS swim team. The senior placed third in the 50 free with a time of 20.61 and then followed that performance with a fourth-place finish in the 100 free (45.42).
Last season, Thorell placed 11th in the state in the 50 free (21.11) and placed 34th in the event when he was a sophomore (21.84). He credits his sophomore campaign, which he says didn't reach his preseason expectations, for how he bounced back the last two years and how he has conducted himself as a leader of this group of swimmers.
"The state meet didn't go as well as I would have hoped my sophomore year," said Thorell. "Quite honestly, it was a bit overwhelming having to step up [as a sophomore] so it was awesome seeing how these guys step in and fill those spots [at the state meet]. I hope I did a good job as a leader making sure [his teammates] weren't too nervous."
Rodriguez has seen substantial growth from the senior since his sophomore season and has watched Thorell blossom into a two-time state champion.
"[Thorell] has turned himself into a great competitor and leader for this program," said Rodriguez. "He has gained a lot of confidence from what I have seen from him over the last four years. We are so proud of him."
RBHS diver takes second
St. Charles (North) ended up winning the state meet with 137 points. Loyola Academy (135), Glenbrook South (128), Oak Park and River Forest (98) and Waubonsie Valley (85) rounded out the top five. LTHS tallied 82 points on the day.
Fenwick tied for 13th place with Plainfield North with 32 points, while Riverside-Brookfield High School placed 28th with 13 total points on the day.
All of those points for RBHS came via diver Harrison Nolan, a sophomore who followed up his sectional championship performance a week earlier with a second-place finish at the state meet on Feb. 29.
Nolan's 522.95 points trailed only senior Jack Williams from Homewood-Flossmoor, whose 544.20 points earned him a second straight state title in diving.