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Nick Kowaleski of St. Charles North powers his way to second place in the 100 yard butterfly. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media ORG XMIT: email@example.com Jon Cunningham
St. Charles North edged sectional host St. Charles East on Saturday, but technically it was more like a part of the process for the individuals, rather than a cause for celebration or disappointment.
“I don’t really keep track,” St. Charles North coach Rob Rooney admitted when asked how many sectionals his program had collected — eight straight per IHSA results. “Today is really about getting into the end of the show. (Qualifying for the state meet) is the ultimate goal. For the guys and relays who have not yet shaved, they did a fantastic job of staying attuned to making the (state qualification) cuts.”
That’s why North compiling 385 points compared to East’s 364 followed by DeKalb (290) and Huntley (206) wasn’t reason enough to fire up the majority of competitors.
“As much as I would have liked to have won the 200 (freestyle) to go with the (first-place) 500 (freestyle), it’s part of the process,” North’s Kyle Gannon said in downplaying a 1:41.24 runner-up showing in the former and a 4:36.28 triumph in the later event, just ahead of teammate Spencer Gray (4:39.11). “Between now and (the Feb. 22-23) state, it’s all about perfecting the little things, like a better start, more fluid turns.”
Gannon — who placed seventh in the 200 free at the 2012 state final — also swam the final legs for two of the North Stars’ trio of relays to advance. He followed, Gray, Stephan Hutchinson, and Kevin Leavy on the victorious 400 free (3:11.01) and was last for the runner-up 200 free (1:27.66) after Nick Kowaleski, Gray, and Leavy. North snared the 200 medley (1:36.75) thanks to Austin Stepella, David Chokran, Kowaleski and Leavy.
Chokran was another of the North Stars’ multi-event qualifiers as the senior ruled the 100 breaststroke (:59.46) and was fourth for the 200 IM (1:58.33).
“(Advancing in the IM) was exactly what I wanted while the breaststroke was more than I expected after just hoping to qualify,” Chokran noted. “Now it’s a whole new mentality for state; I can just go out and race. That’s what you have to do because you can’t control what anyone else does in the pool.”
The host Saints were mainly led by the standout duo of Alec Carnel, and Will Shanel. Carnel’s initial state qualification came in a third-place showing for the 200 freestyle (1:42.61) followed by a blue ribbon for the 100 free (47.10).
“I wasn’t feeling 100 percent coming into the day, but the second I dove in I knew I could contend and that willed me through the rest of the meet,” said Carnel, who took over from Tyler Nunnery and was followed by TJ Bindsell and Shanel for East’s victorious 200 free relay (1:26.00).
The Saints’ 400 foursome (Shanel, Bindsell, Carnel and Nick Wellman) advanced with a runner-up effort (3:11.19).
Shanel comfortably captured the 200 IM (1:54.02) — with Bindsell third (1:57.98) — and placed fourth in the 100 butterfly (:52.36).
“I swam faster than expected in the IM and that set everything up for the rest of the meet,” Shanel said. “I made the 100 fly cut knowing I’ve got some changes still to make. On the 200 relay, all of us were awesome. Going into this year, I really wanted to step up and compete as junior in order to make a name for myself next weekend and next season.”
East also boasted the one-meter diving champion in Max Schmitt (365.40 points) and a 100 breaststroke qualifier in fourth-place finisher Austin Muehlschlegel (1:00.69).
Last year, South Elgin’s Nick Hasemann took seventh in the 200 free and fourth in the 100 backstroke. He’ll aim to do better in both events after winning Saturday’s sectional in the 200 (1:41.09) and the 100 (50:52).
“Actually I consider the sectional to always be one of the hardest meets because there’s a lot more pressure. If you make a mistake, it’ll cost you,” Hasemann explained. “After three years of doing this, I’m a lot more excited as a senior. Individually I want to make a run for a state title, but as a team, it’s exciting to see how much South Elgin has come along.”
Joining him will be Alex Duffy — 200 IM runner-up (1:57.16) and third for the 100 butterfly (:52.30) — plus Taylor Headley, who was fifth in the 100 fly (:52.90).
Yet another area program hoping to become familiar with the state finals is Huntley, now in its third campaign but boasting a first-ever qualifier in Matthew Haage, the runner-up for the 50 freestyle (21.90).
“In some respects it’s a pleasant surprise but knowing that Matt put in so much time and effort, it’s also more the result of hard work,” Huntley coach Rachael Schwingen added.