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Strong sectional gives North Stars high hopes for state.

Byline: Darryl Mellema Daily Herald Correspondent

There is a level of gritty determination that top swim teams exhibit at IHSA sectional meets. The top swimmers aren't rested yet they are still expected to qualify by swimming faster than the state cut times, which usually results in a grinding experience.

St. Charles North went through that grinding on Saturday in the sectional they hosted, and came through it very successfully. The North Stars advanced 14 swim entries and 2 divers to next week's state finals at New Trier.

"Our goal was to qualify guys for state and then to get ready to make it happen at the state meet," St. Charles North's Siba Filipovic said. "We really wanted to get ready to show the state of Illinois what St. Charles North can do."

In addition to their busload of qualifiers, the North Stars also claimed the sectional title with a 307-270 victory over crosstown rival St. Charles East. One of the best teams in the state, St. Charles North turns its attention to Friday's IHSA prelims and the chance to advance as many entries to Saturday's finals, which is when teams start scoring points.

"We're good," St. Charles North coach Rob Rooney said. "Their mindset has been set for the last two weeks. We've kept the yardage up and haven't shaved or tapered yet. Now we have to mentally get better. The next thing is mental preparation."

The North Stars are a unique mix of athletes. There are seniors including Will Myhre, who set a pair of pool records in his final meet in his home pool. Myhre won the 100-yard butterfly and the 100 breaststroke. Senior Brad Whitehurst qualified in the 200 freestyle and the 500 freestyle.

Then there are juniors such as Siba Filipovic -- a qualifier in the 200 IM and winner of the 100 backstroke and one of the team's sectional victory workhorses.

"Right now, I'm completely worn out and I could probably say that for all of our guys right now," Siba Filipovic said. "Right now, even though we're worn out, we need to keep our eyes on the prize, which is competing for the state championship. This is the final week we have to get ready for state and we're going to go for it."

Other qualifying juniors included Ricky Williams, who won the 200 freestyle and was second in the 500 freestyle and Nate Baxter, a qualifier in the 100 butterfly. Then there is star freshman Alec Filipovic, who won the 200 IM and was second in the 100 freestyle.

"We're one big happy family," Siba Filipovic said. "Now we're going to be out there trying to hunt (the state title) down. We're trying to laser in. Today was the day to qualify for the state meet -- but now we have to hunker down, keep focused and go for it."

North Stars qualifying divers include junior Jared McIntosh and sophomore Andrew O'Hare. The North Stars also qualified all three relays -- and all three broke pool records in the process.

"I've always had teams that had three or four guys," Rooney said. "This year, we've got seven and we've got two boys divers -- and we've never had that before. We've got a great week ahead of us."

St. Charles East started on a great note when junior diver Joey Scimeca scored 544.50 in diving to win by 110 points. The Saints then qualified their 200 medley relay but what really set a charge through the team came when Owen Mruk qualified in the 200 freestyle.

"With any sport, morale is a big factor," Mruk said. "With me going out in the first event and getting a kind of unexpected state cut, I think that if people were uncertain of how they'd do, it kind of boosted them and maybe helped them swim a little bit faster. I think it was a fantastic race. I'm very happy with how it went."

Mruk continued his terrific day when he qualified in the 500 freestyle.

"I had a boost of morale from the 200 free," Mruk said. "I didn't expect a cut, but it affirmed what coach says, you have to go out and get those things."

Overall, the Saints qualified 12 swimming entries and Scimeca in diving.

"We knew we needed to come in firing, but given the meet environment, you never know what you're going to get until you start hitting the water. Our guys knew what the plan was. We had to get through conference and swim tired to get to this point," St. Charles East coach Adam Musial said.

One of the strangest qualifications came in the 50 freestyle. Saints junior Connor Drury swam in the fourth qualifying heat of five and swam 21.87 -- two-hundreds of a second outside the state cut. Drury then watched as none of the swimmers in the final heat swam any faster and he won the event, and by being the victor, became the only qualifier in the event.

"I finished and I looked up and saw that I got the 21.8 and was happy, then saw that I was two-hundreds off and my heart sank. I got out and one of our captains ran over and said, 'you're still in this -- you can still win the event," Drury said.

All on-deck, including longtime coach and current Saints assistant Dave Bart said they had never seen such an occurrence.

"When I saw that I had won the event, I kind of lost it, because that is not what I had expected at all," Drury said. "It was a very large range of emotions from extremely happy to extremely sad to being extremely happy. I was jumping around and didn't feel tired at all after my race."

Other Saints qualifiers included Matt Nagler, who won the 100 freestyle, Austin Cabel in the 200 IM and the 500 freestyle, Garrett Prybell in the 200 IM and Sean Yetter in the 100 butterfly. The Saints also qualified all three relays.

"We did what we needed to do in order to get to the state meet," Musial said. "The nerve-wracking moment comes in that you don't want to come all the way down for the state meet. You want to come down enough to qualify and to provide confidence that you're going to do well next week at the state meet."

DeKalb finished third and the Batavia-West Chicago co-op was fourth. Qualifiers for Batavia-West Chicago included Teegan Cook in the 100 butterfly and Kyle Wofford in the 100 backstroke.

"Both those individuals did better than I thought in qualifying," Batavia-West Chicago coach Kelly Loftus said. "Our relays weren't far off, and we had younger guys swimming on them, so we could be pretty stacked going into next year."

While Cook's qualification was anticipated, Wofford's was a surprise. So while Cook was unrested for the sectional and will continue his planned preparation for the state meet, Wofford will undergo some goal readjustment this week.

"Teegan had been very close to the state cut before this, so we didn't really rest him for this," Loftus said. "I'm really excited to see what he does next weekend. Kyle I thought would be a little bit under and he was a whole second under, so that was also incredibly impressive."

South Elgin gained a qualifier when Alex Schlueter finished third in the 100 freestyle, something that had him smiling through the rest of the meet.

"It's pretty crazy," Schlueter said. "I didn't expect to be where I was. I'm pretty rested for this meet and I'm pretty happy with how it came together. I have no idea what to expect. I have a whole bunch of club swimmers who have been there before, and hopefully they'll help me out."

Huntley's Dillon Cherwin advanced to the state prelims when he placed third in the 200 IM.

"I started strong and wanted to be fast through the backstroke, which is probably my weakest stroke," Cherwin said. "After I got off the backstroke and into the free and got a good time, I was so relieved."

Cherwin narrowly missed qualification in the 500 freestyle but he is excited about the chance to prepare for the state finals.

"When I was in middle school and earlier in high school, I'd always watch the state meet on the videocast," Cherwin said. "Hearing all the people cheer is something else -- it's a crazy atmosphere and I can't wait to get there and experience it."

Also qualifying from the meet was Wheaton co-op's Patrick White, who finished fourth in the 100 freestyle.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Mellema, By Darryl
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Feb 17, 2019
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