The Oak Park and River Forest High School swimming and diving team raced to a comfortable win at the IHSA sectional meet Feb. 19 at East Leyden High School, scoring 310 points to outpace York (274) and crosstown rival Fenwick (270) in the 10-team contest.
“I’m super proud of the kids,” said OPRF coach Clyde Lundgren, who was voted the sectional’s Coach of the Year. “From top to bottom, it was a great day. We got a lot of things done.”
The Huskies were victorious in all three relays and advanced six individuals to the IHSA state finals, which will take place Feb. 25-26 at the FMC Natatorium in Westmont. OPRF’s strong effort was spearheaded by seniors Ben Louis, Thomas Rotatori and Philip Walby.
“Of our 12 guys [who will compete at the state meet], they’re the only three that have been here before,” Lundgren said. “We’ve been leaning on them for leadership and to show us the way. It’s awesome.”
Louis was victorious in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1 minute, 39.22 seconds and swam the anchor leg on two OPRF relays — the 200 freestyle with junior Emmett Harmon, Rotatori and sophomore Lars Rauch (winning time of 1:25.36) and the 400 freestyle with Rotatori, Harmon and Rauch (3:07.98).
Moreover, Louis qualified in the 500 freestyle in exciting fashion. In perhaps the race of the day, he led early but was caught at the end by Fenwick senior Mike Flynn. The margin of defeat was close as Flynn’s winning time of 4:32.38 was only 0.12 seconds better than Louis (4:32.50).
“I could’ve won that, but Mike’s amazing,” Louis said of the 500. “I thought I swam really well and it was a great race.”
The Huskies’ 200 medley relay of Harmon, Walby, Rotatori and Rauch won with a time of 1:34.86. Harmon was victorious in the 100 butterfly (50.76) and Walby won the 100 breaststroke (58.75), which Lundgren called “a great surprise.”
Other OPRF individuals advancing to state are sophomore Adan Pedraza (2nd in the 200 individual medley, 1:59.73), Rotatori (2nd in the 50 freestyle, 21.62) and sophomore Garrett Lundgren, who qualified in diving with a third-place score of 386.20.
The Huskies now look forward to the state meet, eager to see how they stack up.
“I hope we can fight to get those relays qualified into scoring positions,” Lundgren said. “We’d like have those individual qualifiers improve their times and move up.”
“The sky’s the limit for us,” added Louis. “If everyone is performing, I don’t see how we cannot do well.”
Fenwick advances four plus a relay
Fenwick coach Steve Thompson thought his team performed well at the sectional, but he also felt the Friars missed some opportunities.
“We had potential for a lot more,” he said. “We did some good things, but the ones that you miss on are the ones that linger a little bit longer.
Fenwick advanced one relay and four individuals to the state finals. Sophomore Tomas Adomaitis won two events, the 200 individual medley (1:56.03) and the 100 backstroke (53.43).
“Tomas is one of the top age-groupers in the state and he’s starting to move into that senior level of swimming,” Thompson said. “His potential is in front of him.”
Mike Flynn, a senior, placed second in the 200 freestyle with a qualifying time of 1:39.62, but won the 500 free over OPRF’s Ben Louis.
The Friars’ 400 freestyle relay unit of Flynn, junior Sam Kulisek, sophomore Cade Podgorski and Adomaitis qualified for state, finishing second behind OPRF with a time of 3:09.34.
“We talked with the kids all year long about finishing strong, and it’s fitting that we’re in the last relay,” Thompson said. “If we can get some good individual swims and Mike can move to the top of the podium, I think we can still be a formidable team at state.”