By Marty Farmer
Reflective of their rivalry, perhaps it's fitting that the OPRF and Fenwick high school boys swimming teams finished close in the standings of the IHSA State Finals.
Hosted by Evanston, the Friars tied Lake Park with 19 points apiece to finish 19th, while the Huskies tied Downers Grove North with 16 points each for 21st place on Saturday, Feb. 24.
With the exception of Fenwick senior Tommy Bartecki, both the Huskies and Friars return their top swimmers next year. Optimism understandably abounds for both teams.
OPRF sophomore Will Raidt and Fenwick junior Liam Hutchinson will lead their respective teams next season. Each excelled at the state meet with a pair of impressive individual results.
In the 200-yard freestyle, Raidt finished sixth in the state with a time of 1 minute, 40.45 seconds. Hutchinson placed seventh (1:39.15, consolation final) right behind Raidt, who set an OPRF school record in the prelims with a personal-best time of 1:39.12.
"Liam and I placed in the 200 free with nearly identical best times," Raidt said. "Most of the other guys at the top were seniors so the two of us are definitely looking forward to next season to try to place even higher."
At the Fenwick Sectional, Raidt (1:41.86) edged Hutchinson (1:42.10).
Needless to say, a good-natured rivalry has developed between the outstanding swimmers.
"Having Will as a competitor and friend at sectionals and state is fun for me," Hutchinson said. "I know we will push each other to go faster and perform as well as we can. The 200 free is always one of the most competitive events at the state meet. Going into the meet, I know it will take a lot to place high in finals."
In the 100 backstroke, Raidt placed seventh by touching the wall at a personal-best 50.37. He also swam a leg of the Huskies' state-qualifying 200- and 400-freestyle relay teams in preliminaries.
Hutchinson earned third in the 500 freestyle in a time of 4:26.56. He just beat Lyons Township star Spencer Walker who recorded a time of 4:26.57.
As for Raidt and Hutchinson, their competition has fostered mutual improvement.
"We push each other to swim faster," Raidt said. "We are happy to see the other put up fast times."
They were roommates at the invite-only Olympic Training Camp (14U Select) in Colorado Springs and keep in touch during the season.
"It's nice to be able to see each other and compete in high school meets and club," Hutchinson said. "Even though our high schools may be rivals, I still wish him the best in his races."
The Huskies edged the host Friars 322-299.5 to claim the Fenwick Sectional championship. Fenwick won seven races and OPRF five at the event.
In addition to Raidt and Hutchinson, OPRF and Fenwick had several other state qualifiers. They competed during Friday's preliminaries. J.P. Rotatori, Frank Tirone, Alex Pedraza, Ben Guerrero, Diego Pareja and diver Tyler Hoyt represented the Huskies. Dan Lynch, Connor McCarthy, Dan Badja and Bartecki swam for Fenwick at Evanston.
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