In one of his final acts as the longtime OPRF boys swim coach, Peter Quinn predicted at the team’s season-ending banquet last year that this season’s Huskies would finish in the Top 8 or better at the IHSA State Meet.
Quinn, himself a former swimmer at OPRF (Class of ’83) and state champion (100 freestyle), spent 20 years teaching the sport at his alma mater, 18 as the head coach. He knows a thing or two about swim talent, and by all accounts, this season’s team does have the potential to improve on last year’s 15th-place, which the Huskies shared with cross-town rival Fenwick and the Illinois Math and Science Academy.
Clyde Lundgren, who spent 15 years as an assistant under Quinn and has been head coach of the girls program for the last 10 years, takes over the boys program. Lundgren isn’t ready to concur with Quinn’s prognostication, but he’s optimistic the Huskies can be successful this season.
“I was taught at a young age that you have to prove it in the water,” said Lundgren in regards to making any early season predictions. “All that said, we have a couple of special swimmers in Nikita Bondarenko and Kyle Patnode. We will rely heavily on them to carry us through the season and on through the state meet. I know they both want to swim in the Top 6 at state and they both have to put the work in to do it. But to be Top 10, the question becomes can we get some relays to score.”
Bondarenko, who took 11th in the 500 free (4:36.93) and 12th in the 200 free (1:43.07) at state last year and Patnode are now seniors. Patnode is headed to the University of Iowa next year. He swam to eighth in the backstroke at state last season and 11th in the 100-yard butterfly. But the Huskies are going to need more than just these two great swimmers to make Quinn’s prediction a reality.
Enter Mark Hallman and Nathan Pimentel, who are expected to make a significant impact from the get-go this season. The duo is set to bolster the medley and 400 free relays.
Also adding to the point total is a group of talented divers in Mick Wilson, Michael Smart, Asher Einhorn and Nate Hesterman. The group, which practice under the supervision of Mark Pappalardo at Riverside-Brookfield High School due to OPRF’s lack of a diving board, will try to make up for the loss of Ben Lewis, who graduated last year after finishing fifth overall in the event at state.
The Huskies host Glenbard West on Dec. 14 in their home and West Suburban (Silver) Conference opener (5 p.m.).