EVANSTON – Their best-laid plans were threatened, then thwarted, but St. Charles North swimmers still trudged from the Evanston natatorium to the locker room with their heads up.
Some of that related to the length of a winding walk. The rest sat on the North Stars' shoulders.
Aspiring to the program's first trophy when the IHSA boys state swimming meet started, North revamped its plans after struggling through Friday's prelims. While Saturday's finals brought individual finishes of sixth, ninth and 11th and eighth- and 10th-place swims in separate relays, those figures weren't quite what the team had envisioned.
"It was a good year all year until [Friday] and today," said four-time finalist Kyle Gannon, a junior. "Everybody tapered well and we had some close-to-best times in sectionals. I think this meet itself was very fast this year and we just didn't swim as well as we wanted to."
Sensing his athletes sulk outside the locker room, North coach Rob Rooney asked them to be over the frustration by Sunday morning.
After taking fifth as a team a year ago, North slumped to 13th this winter, though Rooney warned against letting that trend continue.
"I'm not saying we shouldn't be sad or mad or emotional about it because emotions are part of life," he said. "But as a person, you've got to put your shoes back on, pull your pants back up, put your clothes on and get ready for the next day."
Swimmers moved with unprecedented speed on Saturday, setting a handful of meet and state records.
When it was over, St. Charles East senior Shaun Seuschek suggested his career had passed just as quickly. Though he kept smiling, it was clear Seuschek was loathe to dry off.
"What helps or what makes the years go faster actually is swimming," he said. "Just putting in the morning practice then going in in the afternoon. It may seem like a long day, but it actually makes the day go a lot faster, especially within the season's parameters. It just goes fast."
All the more reason for Seuschek to savor his final state meet, which included a fifth-place finish in the 200-yard individual medley and a ninth-place turn in the 100 butterfly.
In a few weeks, he may team with Gannon on a relay at club nationals for St. Charles Swimming. Fine by him.
"We may be different schools, but we're in the same city, we're on the same club team," Seuschek said. "We're all the swim team."
Gannon enjoyed the busiest day among Chronicle-area athletes, placing sixth in the 500 free and 11th in the 200 free while swimming on the 200 freestyle relay (10th) and 400 freestyle relay (eighth).
Junior Nick Kowaleski and senior Chris Dieter were part of both relays, with Dieter adding a ninth-place individual swim in the 200 free.
Seuschek began his day in the 200 individual medley. With champion Reed Malone of runaway state champion New Trier (1:48.35) missing a state record by two tenths of a second two lanes over, Seuschek found himself chasing from the start.
After appearing to catch Buffalo Grove's Ian Rodriguez for fifth with a strong finish in the freestyle leg, Seuschek was awarded that place when Rodriguez was disqualified for a false start following the race.
While his 1:54.10 finish was about a second slower than his preliminary time, Seuschek could look the other way with his career winding down and two medals dangling from his neck.
"Coming down that last 50 (yards) I was tired, so honestly, you've just got to pull it together and finish it out strong," he said. "I was fatigued, but I had to keep swimming and had to keep positive."
Unlike last week's state wrestling meet, which expanded to three days and created pockets of down time, the swimming meet operated as usual in packed pool quarters.
Still, Marmion's John Thielen, Josh Kanute, Mike Burke and Dan Duhig arrived knowing they would play a significant waiting game before swimming in the day's penultimate race, the 400 freestyle relay consolation final.
"We warmed up a lot. Every chance we could," said Kanute, a Geneva resident. "After that, we just tried to stay focused."
The group, which had only competed together once before the state meet, finished 10th, about one second off its prelim time.