After winning the first state medal of his career Saturday, Josh Fluharty didn’t show up for the traditional photo session that takes place after every event at the state swimming finals.
The Oak Park and River Forest High School senior would have missed another photo shoot 90 minutes later had a reporter not informed him.
Turns out nobody had told Fluharty what to expect.
Then again, until recently Fluharty had never expected to be on the podium at the state finals. So he treated the meet last weekend at Evanston like any other.
“I just thought of it as a normal meet and I just swam,” Fluharty said. “I got all my goals done for the season and it’s my last season so I’m completely fine with it.”
Fluharty’s performance was more than fine as he finished eighth in the 50-yard freestyle and ninth in the 100 freestyle. He is only the second swimmer in school history to win medals in those two events in the same year.
“It’s pretty good,” Fluharty said. “As a freshman I didn’t think I was going to make state at all. It’s nice to get medals, too.”
Fluharty, who began swimming when he was 6 and has competed since he was 7, qualified for state last year in the 50 but did not advance past the preliminary round.
But he came into this season with a renewed focus on breaking school records in the 50 and 100. He took down the 50 mark at the Fenwick Sectional when he timed 21.03.
Fluharty was consistent at state, timing 21.30 on Friday to advance to the consolation heat, where he repeated the time.
“(The 50 record) was my main goal,” Fluharty said. “I was always looking up at the records.
“I always thought, ‘What if I got up there?” but I never thought I’d actually get it. It wasn’t until this season until I felt I had a chance.
“I think I was more focused this year with training and I really worked hard during practices.”
Fluharty came up just short in his quest for the school record in the 100, missing the mark by .05. But he still pulled off an impressive feat, lowering his time from 46.62 on Friday to 46.53 on Saturday. Most swimmers do not swim faster on Saturday because of the short turn-around after prelims.
Despite his accomplishments, Fluharty is undecided on whether he wants to swim in college, where he plans to study computer engineering, and is not being recruited. Yet he managed to make the finals in one of the nation’s most competitive states for high school swimming.
How to explain that?
“For me it’s more technique based,” Fluharty said. “I’m not the strongest or the tallest or the biggest but I have good technique.”
If this is the end of Fluharty’s competitive career, he leaves the sport satisfied, knowing that he finished his last race, the 100, with a best time.
“I knew it was my last race so I just wanted to give it my all at the end,” Fluharty said. “I have no regrets.”
In other results, OPRF junior Thomas Wolfe finished 30th in the 200 individual medley in 1:58.27 and 40th in the 100 backstroke in 55.21 and senior Riley Conrardy placed 29th in diving with 173.55 points.
The Huskies were 14th in the 400 free relay as Wolfe, freshman J.P. Rotatori, sophomore Max Razzino and Fluharty clocked 3:11.82 and 17th in the 200 free relay in 1:27.41 behind Wolfe, Rotatori, senior Sean Pawelko and Fluharty.
Friars’ Smith earns seventh state medal
Fenwick senior Cavan Smith, who earned his seventh state medal, counting relays, recorded a ninth-place showing in the 100 butterfly.
“It hasn’t really settled in,” Smith said. “Of course I’m sad with it all because it has been so much fun and my coaches are great, but it will be great I’ll have a new experience in college and I’m excited for the things ahead.”
Smith, who plans to swim at Connecticut but is still waiting for an acceptance letter, won all three of his individual medals in the butterfly, his favorite event.
The four-year starter was also a three-time state qualifier in the 50 free, but he gave up that event this year so he could help out on all three of Fenwick’s relays, two of which had legitimate shots to make the finals.
“It didn’t happen like we wanted to but it was more about being a senior and having fun with my buddies,” Smith said. “We would get psyched for swimming but we were still having a great time together.”
Fenwick finished 21st in the 400 free relay as seniors Ryan Clark, Mickey McGuire and Smith and freshman Liam Hutchinson timed 3:12.59.
The Friars were 24th in the 200 medley relay and 200 free relay. The medley quartet of sophomore Tommy Bartecki, senior Chez Daggs, Smith and McGuire clocked 1:37.73, while the 200 free team of Smith, Daggs, McGuire and Clark finished in 1:28.08.
Hutchinson marked himself as Fenwick’s next star as he captured 16th in the 500 free in 4:39.49 and 20th in the 200 free in 1:44.15, while fellow rookie Dan Lynch took 41st in the 100 breaststroke in 1:01.03.
Veterans and rookies alike showed solidarity for the Friars.
“We’re all just one big team this year,” Smith said. “It was my last state meet and even the freshmen shaved their heads. We were like, ‘how can we make our senior year more memorable?’ So for state we decided we’d all shave our heads.”