Mike Flynn flashes a smile after winning the 500-yard freestyle, his second win of the day, at the IHSA state swimming and diving meet on Feb. 26 in Westmont. (Visual Image Photography)

Fenwick High School senior Mike Flynn had an outstanding boys swimming mentor in 2019 graduate Liam Hutchinson, the IHSA state champion in the 500-yard freestyle.

Flynn took that achievement one step further on Feb. 26.

The Brookfield resident not only captured the 500 title but also earlier won the 200 free during the first boys state finals held at the FMC Natatorium in Westmont.

“It’s just awesome to swim two events, get two state titles. I’m so humbled to be here in the first place and just to have this competition,” Flynn said.

Flynn won the 200 free in 1 minute, 37.03 seconds to break his school record of 1:37.42 which he set during the Feb. 25 preliminary heats. Flynn won the 500 at 4:27.66 in the finals after his second-best 4:29.90 in the prelims.  

In Fenwick’s rich swimming history, two individual titles at one state meet only had been achieved twice before – Ed Pierce in 1991 and Robert Ramoska in 1979 both also in the 500 and 200 free. Ramoska also won the 500 free in 1978.

“It definitely puts him in special company,” Fenwick coach Steve Thompson said. “Going into the meet and looking at Mike’s experience overall, we knew it was a possibility. We knew if Mike was on his pace that he would be hard to beat.” 

Flynn also was part of the Friars’ 400 free relay with junior Sam Kulisek and sophomores Tomas Adomaitis and Code Podgorski that placed 11th (3:09.46). The three finals performances gave Fenwick 10th as a team with 36 points.

Even with no 2021 state championships, Flynn brought significant state experience with seven finals or consolation finals races. Individually, Flynn was third in the 500 free and ninth in the 200 free in 2020 and 11th in both as a freshman, when Hutchinson won his 500 (school-record 4:24.47) and was second in the 200 (1:38.16).

Flynn’s 200 time in the state prelims on Feb. 25 broke the school record held by Hutchinson. 

“I made sure to text him right afterwards that I broke it. But he was happy for me,” Flynn said.

Flynn received an extra finals push from Oak Park and River Forest High School senior Ben Louis, who was .02 behind Flynn during Friday’s prelims and had the fastest 500 that afternoon at 4:29.08. In finals, Louis was third in the 200 (1:38.91) and sixth in the 500 (4:36.55). 

“This was Ben’s first state meet. I think he handled the circumstances and pressure really well,” said OPRF coach Clyde Lundgren. “Ben is going out as one of the most decorated OPRF swimmers in history; he’s got four individual school records and is also a part of two relay records. He’s had an amazing career.”

OPRF junior Emmett Harmon finished 10th in the 100 butterfly with a time of 50.51.

OPRF also had two relays qualify for the finals. The 200 freestyle relay team of Louis, Thomas Rotatori, Lars Rauch and Harmon placed fifth in 1:24.69, and the same individuals finished seventh in the 400 freestyle relay with a time of 3:07.68.

The 200 relay garnered All-American status, and Lundgren believes the 400 relay will merit the same. Overall, OPRF placed sixth as a team with 58 points.

Flynn and Hutchinson will be reunited next year at University of Notre Dame where Flynn plans to swim and study business analytics.

“I took an official visit there with him and I loved it. I told him I was committing there, so he was real happy,” Flynn said.

Like Hutchinson did for him, Flynn said he tried to be a role model and encourage younger Friars to further state success. Thompson said Flynn set the standard well, as senior Lindsey Drumm did during the girls season.

“Lindsey and Mike were the only seniors on deck at state and just really got involved, made the kids feel relaxed,” Thompson said. 

“Mike is an established swimmer so hopefully I just helped him understand what he was capable of doing. Mike was primed for this and really took ownership of it. I’m just proud of have been a part of it.”

Melvin Tate contributed to this report.

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