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Alex Snarski of Libertyville waits for the start of the backstroke finals at the IHSA Boys Swimming Championships Finals at New Trier H.S.| Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Standing on the deck next to the pool inside New Trier’s Natatorium Saturday, Libertyville’s Matt Harrington looked up to the monitor.
The state swim meet had ended, and the team results were posted. Libertyville was fourth, behind third-place Lake Forest, runner-up Hinsdale Central and state-champion New Trier.
“I was optimistic, but that was awesome!” Harrington said when asked about the Wildcats’ surprising finish.
A season that began with a new coach — Bob Groseth — ended with the highest state meet finish in school history. Libertyville got there with a balanced and youthful attack that featured no seniors.
When Groseth, the former long-time Northwestern head man who coached Olympian Matt Grevers in college, took over the Wildcats, he didn’t make dramatic changes.
“The coaches they had before have developed a lot of the skills,” Groseth said. “It was more of a mentality.”
That began in the weight room. Instead of focusing on body-weight training — which involves pushups and ropes — Groseth shifted workouts to be more power- and strength-oriented. The Wildcats did bench and shoulder presses, using actual weights.
Over the two-day state meet, Libertyville flexed its newfound muscle with two top-seven finishes in the relays. Juniors Atticus Rush and Alex Snarski teamed with Harrington and sophomore Justin Fu to take fifth place in the 200-yard medley relay (1 minute, 34.51 seconds). In the 400 free, the same foursome earned the Wildcats a seventh-place finish (3:07.87).
Snarski was the Wildcats’ best individual finisher, touching the wall second in the 100 backstroke (49.98) after winner Andrew Jovanovic of Loyola.
“Time doesn’t matter,” Snarski said. “Second place. Amazing.”
Harrington managed a third-place finish in the 100 butterfly (49.07) and fifth in the 50 free (21.05). Both events were won in spectacular fashion by Mundelein sprinter Connor Black.
Admitting he planned on taking a couple of days off to rest, Harrington said the Wildcats can’t wait to jump back into pool to prepare for a state title run next season.
“It bodes well for the future,” Harrington said. “It’s going to be a blast.”
Although Sean Scarry was the lone Deerfield representative at Saturday’s state finals, the sophomore diver was among friends.
Scarry was one of six members of club Windy City Diving to finish in the top 10 at the state meet. By way of his terrific Friday dives, Scarry managed a strong showing Saturday to earn a fourth-place spot (411.25).
“My first five dives I was the most consistent I’ve been at a meet,” Scarry said. “It put me over the edge and put me in the finals.”
Deerfield junior Ryan Church did not make it past Friday’s prelims, ending up in 28th place.
Cougar comes through
After qualifying for the boys state diving finals with a ninth-place showing Friday, Vernon Hills’ Alex Zuniga went with an old favorite for dinner.
“Tombstone pizza,” the junior said. “And I tried to get as much sleep as I could.”
The extra rest — combined with the food delicacy — helped Zuniga hold his spot at New Trier Saturday, as the Cougar ended up ninth (393.80 points). It capped a terrific career for Zuniga, who had qualified for state the previous two years, but never made it to the final round.
“I’m glad I could end on this high note,” Zuniga said.
Highland Park junior Ben Laedlein failed to make it out of Friday’s prelims in the 100 back. He finished 34th with a time of 54.02. Buffalo Grove senior Matt Schulstad was 23rd in the 100 fly, ending his Bison career with a time of 52:13. ~.