OPRF senior Benjamin Louis practices with the team on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, during boys varsity swim practice in the West pool at Oak Park and River Forest High School in Oak Park, Ill. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

In 2020, the last time the IHSA conducted a state meet in boys swimming and diving, Oak Park and River Forest High School placed fourth.

But with nine seniors from last year’s team having graduated, the Huskies are in a bit of a rebuilding phase.

“I don’t remember a year where there were that many guys that were lost to graduation,” OPRF coach Clyde Lundgren said. “We’ve got a lot of new faces in the pool. But the program is set up in a way where we keep the streams of leadership, performance, and strong character coming through. I hope the new guys can rise to the occasion and do the job.”

Seniors Ben Louis, Thomas Rotatori and Philip Walby return from last year and bring experience and leadership to OPRF’s young roster. The Huskies also hope to receive contributions from juniors Evan Hauptmann and Emmett Harmon and sophomores Adan Pedraza and Lars Rauch.

“Ben is pretty versatile, and he’s the nucleus of the core that we’ll build relays around,” Lundgren said. “Adan is pretty solid in the breaststroke, and we’re always good for sprint and freestyle events.”

OPRF junior Emmett Harmon practices with the team on Monday, Dec. 13, during boys varsity swim practice in the West pool at Oak Park and River Forest High School in Oak Park. | Alex Rogals

Among the top meets OPRF will compete in this season are the Mustang Invite at Downers Grove South on Dec.18, the Riverside-Brookfield Invitational on Jan. 15 and the Lyons Township Invitational on Jan. 29.

“We’ve had a good showing at Downers South the last few years,” Lundgren said. “That’s a nice barometer to see where we’re at heading into winter break.”

The Huskies have won the West Suburban Silver Conference championship the last seasons, but Lundgren expects Hinsdale Central and Lyons Township to make strong pushes for this year’s title.

“Hinsdale Central seems to be on a wash, rinse, and repeat cycle. They reload every year and are always in the hunt,” he said. “There’s also LT, who’s a perennial Top 10 team. With our young team, we may not be the favorite going into the season, but we’d like to be in the conversation.”

Flynn, Sarvis lead Friars in 2021-22

In 2020, Fenwick High School finished 13th at the IHSA state meet. The Friars return just one swimmer from that team — senior Michael Flynn.

“Michael is a returning all-state swimmer,” Fenwick coach Steven Thompson said. “Last year, he broke the Metro Catholic Aquatic Conference record in the 200 freestyle, and he’s very versatile.”

Fenwick returns seven other swimmers from last year’s team, including senior Cameron Sarvis, who would’ve qualified for state in the 100 breaststroke had the state meet not been canceled due to COVID-19 along with senior Dylan Fu, juniors Chris Badja and Sam Kulisek and sophomores Tomas Adomaltis, Owen McDonald and Code Podgorski.

OPRF senior Thomas Rotatori practices with the team on Monday, Dec. 13, during boys varsity swim practice in the West pool at Oak Park and River Forest High School in Oak Park. | Alex Rogals

“Our 500 freestyle group should be deep and give us some options at our championships,” said Thompson.

Freshmen Thomas Helt and Declan Vahey are newcomers the Friars hope will help to fill the void left by the graduation of one of the program’s all-time swimmers, Connor McCarthy.

“We lost Connor from last year, and that leaves a big hole in our butterfly and sprint events,” Thompson said. “We will need some guys to step up.”

Fenwick’s rigorous schedule includes competing at the Homewood-Flossmoor Pentathlon on Dec. 28 and the Sandburg Invitational on Jan. 14-15.

The Friars usually face stiff competition in the MCAC, and this season is no different as Thompson figures Loyola Academy, Marmion Academy and St. Ignatius will vie with his team for the league title.

But he’s also optimistic about Fenwick meeting its’ annual goals.

“Everything we do points to sectionals and state,” he said. “The boys came in very prepared and have had a good start to their training. We expect to compete at the conference for championships at every level. We also want to challenge for a sectional championship and to qualify as many swimmers as possible for, and produce, at the state meet.”

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