Nearly two weeks removed from capturing four medals at the IHSA state meet, St. Charles North swimmer Kyle Gannon still struggles to shake the thought of one particular figure.
In a season in which the program’s first state medal was the goal, the North Stars finished 13th. Try as he might, Gannon can’t help but remember that aching feeling from a crammed Evanston pool deck.
“I don’t want to say I’ve gotten over it, but it’s a little less depressing right now,” said Gannon, the Kane County Chronicle’s Boys Swimmer of the Year. “I realized we still have next year, still have some good swims coming back. We’ve got people who can replace what we’re losing and still a lot of potential.”
Gannon’s experience might be the happiest return of all. The junior closed the season by placing sixth in the 500-yard freestyle and 11th in the 200 free while contributing to North’s 200 freestyle relay (10th) and 400 freestyle relay (eighth).
His consistency shined throughout the season. Before helping the host North Stars to a sectional title, Gannon established a pair of pool records at Metea Valley, winning the 200 free (1:43.24) and 500 free (4:40.89) as North captured its second straight Upstate Eight Conference championship.
At Evanston, Gannon would go on to label the season a success until its final weekend. One of the more telling statistics of North’s frustration came in the 500 free, when Gannon’s prelim time of 4:30.89 eclipsed the school record but still fell almost 12 seconds shy of three-time event champion Danny Thomson of Hinsdale Central.
Five seasons earlier, former North record holder Chris Peterson won the 500 free state title in 4:34.60, cruising to victory by more than two seconds.
“Before the Danny Thomson era, I think Kyle’s time is something people would really be saying ‘Wow’ about,” North Stars coach Rob Rooney said.
In the finals, New Trier junior Reed Malone finished a little more than two seconds off Thomson’s state-record pace of 4:18.86.
Next February, Rooney expects Gannon to be right there with Malone, the presumptive event favorite.
Gannon embraced competitive swimming shortly after taking his first lessons at age 6, calling it “probably one of the best decisions of my life.” His father swam briefly in the family’s native Pennsylvania, while his sister, current Rhode Island sophomore Taylor, also had a star turn at North.
The Gannons moved to St. Charles when Kyle was 11, and Kyle soon joined St. Charles Swim Club. Though program coach Jon Cabel knew of Gannon’s background in the butterfly, he figured the athlete’s lithe and lengthy build made him a natural as a distance freestyler.
“It seemed like I stopped swimming fly and then went right to distance,” Gannon said. “Now it’s a challenge to go back to fly or IM.”
Regardless of his place in the lineup, Gannon admitted he’d “rather get top three as a team than any individual medals I got this year.”
Should he build on his stamina and 2011-12 pace, Gannon is liable to join his sister in taking his team-first attitude to an NCAA program.
“Kyle’s just going to get better as he gets older,” Rooney said. “He could make a college coach very happy in the recruiting process with his length and his speed.”