Fenwick junior Liam Hutchinson is a two-time state medalist who should contend for a state title in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle races at the IHSA State Meet this season. (Photo by Don Bartecki)

Although the Fenwick High School boys swimming team has had mixed results so far this season, expectations remain high.

“Our goal is to score points at the state meet,” Fenwick coach Luke McGuire said. “Hopefully, we can get some relays back on Saturday (finals round at state meet) this season. We are a fairly young team, but the younger guys are pushing the older guys to try harder.”

Fenwick, which finished last season 7-4, lost dual meets against Sandburg and crosstown rival OPRF this year. On the bright side, the Friars have won a pair of triangular meets at home and placed fifth in the Red Division of the Barrington Relays.

In the triangular meets, Fenwick (279) topped St. Viator (139) and St. Rita (108) on Dec. 1. Notable swims included the 200-yard medley relay by senior Tommy Bartecki, sophomore Dan Badja, junior Dan Lynch, and junior Liam Hutchinson. The quartet recorded a time of 1 minute, 40.94 seconds to finish first. Hutchinson won the 200-yard freestyle (1:46.89) and 500-yard freestyle (4:48.49), while Lynch placed first in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:02.82). Freshman Connor McCarthy touched the wall at 57.46 to win the 100-yard butterfly. The Friars won all three relays at that triangular.

Fenwick (240) also beat Benet (183) and St. Patrick (129) in their other triangular on Dec. 12.

Top returners for the Friars this season include Hutchinson (two-time state medalist), Lynch and Bartecki.

“We are doing pretty well so far,” Lynch said. “We’ve had some fast swims for how far we are in the season. I think one of the team’s strengths is we all push each other to work our hardest because of how close everybody is on the team.”

Hutchinson, a junior, placed eighth in the 500-yard freestyle (4:31.55) and ninth in the 200 free (1:41.16) at last year’s IHSA State Meet.

“I’m hoping to compete for a top-three spot in both the 200 free and 500 free this year [at state],” Hutchinson said. “My hopes for the team this year are to win our sectional and send a handful of guys to the state meet at Evanston.”

Hutchinson, who has been swimming since age 5, is one of the Friars’ leaders, partly based on his work ethic.

“For me it’s all about going to practice every day and putting in the hard work,” he said. “If you’ve done all that, you know at the end of the season you’re going to get those times you want.”

Hutchinson also benefitted from attending the USA Swimming National Select Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado this fall.

Lynch is a returning state qualifier in the 100-yard breaststroke. He won the 100 breast at the Fenwick Sectional last year with a time of 59.25. Bartecki qualified for state in the 100-yard backstroke last year.

“I hope we continue to work hard and improve our relays as we approach state,” Bartecki said. “Hopefully, we can break a few of the existing relay records. I hope to break the 100-back record which I’m only a second away from.”

Fenwick, which edged OPRF 290-275 to win its sectional in 2017, also sent all three relay teams to state. The Friars finished third in the Metro Catholic Aquatics Conference standings and 32nd at state last season.

Friars’ youth movement

This season, the Friars have several promising underclassmen on the roster as well.

Primarily a breaststroker, Badja is very versatile and could help the Friars in various events. McGuire mentioned freshmen Connor McCarthy (200-yard individual medley, 100-yard butterfly), Pete Buinauskas (100-yard backstroke, 200 IM), and Will Gurski (100 breast, 200 IM) as swimmers to watch. Fellow frosh Caden Gierstorf, Logan Maue, Todd Hutchinson and Brian Moore could also contribute this season.

“I think all the new swimmers have seamlessly joined the team. It feels like we have been together far longer than a few weeks,” Bartecki said. “With the new kids, I think we should have a great year for swimming. We have a serious shot at breaking some long-standing records.”

In the MCAC, Fenwick should contend for the league title, along with Marmion and St. Ignatius.

The Friars take part in the Homewood-Flossmoor Pentathlon on Wednesday, Dec. 27 (10 a.m.). They close out 2017 with a home dual meet against Rockford Boylan (Time TBD).

Fenwick also enjoys the luxury of annually hosting a sectional, which the Friars have dominated in recent years. It’s also serves as a springboard to the state finals. 

“It’s amazing to have sectional at Fenwick,” Lynch said. “We’re familiar with everything so there’s nothing new to be worried about, so we can just focus on racing. Going to state is so much fun and it’s a great experience. The pool is full of energy and adrenaline. The crowd really makes racing for best times intense.”

Hutchinson added, “Being able to compete at home at the end of the season is what helps our team be successful every year at sectionals. After a greta sectional meet, we are set up perfectly to perform at the state meet.”

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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...