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Druley: Kowaleski, North Stars practice training-first, meet results-second approach

St. Charles North senior boys swimmer Nick Kowaleski competed with state medal-winnng relays in both the 200- and 400-yard freestyle last season.
St. Charles North senior boys swimmer Nick Kowaleski competed with state medal-winnng relays in both the 200- and 400-yard freestyle last season.

Nick Kowaleski knows a fellow swimmer who once had to turn around for another heat race within three minutes.

While Kowaleski’s own recovery intervals at St. Charles North seldom have been so slim, they’re also a little less sedentary this season.

“Especially being a senior now, me and a couple of the other guys really have to take care of the young kids,” Kowaleski said. “Be like, ‘OK, get to your event, get to your event,’ that sort of thing. But I still feel like we keep it together pretty well.”

Kowaleski and the rest of the North Stars aspire to win multiple medals once the state meet arrives in two months, remaining eager to erase last season’s disappointment at Evanston with a breakthrough at New Trier. A training-first, meet results-second approach kicked in last month, yet the team, led by Kowaleski, still has enjoyed success.

North’s second-place finish at Saturday’s Neuqua Valley Invitational included Kowaleski’s individual title in the 50-yard freestyle and his winning turn with Kyle Gannon, Austin Stapella and David Chokran in the 200 medley relay.

“Nick is a first-class young man,” North Stars coach Rob Rooney said.”He’s got a good college set-up for the future, but right now he’s keeping himself focused on the high school season, and peaking in February is his goal.”

An Illinois-Chicago signee, Kowaleski competed on North’s state medal-winning 200 freestyle (10th place) and 400 freestyle (eighth place) relays as a junior.

He also was part of the 200 medley group that narrowly missed the consolation finals, falling 1.35 seconds of matching the final preliminary qualifying spot.

It’s too soon to tell which individual swims Kowaleski might be part of for the state series, but his relay spots are all but solidified. Although he doesn’t glance that way during practices or home meets much, Kowaleski’s name still stands on the school and pool record board for both freestyle relays. No matter his cast of teammates, one thing stays constant.

“It’s all about trust,” Kowaleski said. “I’ve got to trust the guy coming in, that he’s not going to short-stroke me. We’ve got to make sure we’re all working hard, pushing each other. It’s not the three fastest guys on the team. It’s the four, you know. You’ve got to have everyone there all the time. Everyone’s got to be kicking each other’s butts in practice and stuff. It’s just a team effort, mentally and physically.”

So far, Rooney hasn’t needed to repeat any work ethic rhetoric to a team that includes a handful of other college recruits, namely Gannon, who’s bound for Iowa.

North’s seniors have a pulse on just about everything that’s happening on deck, including the underclassmen event schedule.

SHOOTing for the stars: Batavia senior point guard Mike Rueffer attempted just six field goals during Saturday’s home boys basketball game against St. Charles East.

If East’s bustling student section had its way, Rueffer would have let fly much more often.

Saints superfans have taken to shouting “SHOOT!” when a designated member of the opposition – presumably a ballhandler, given
the similar recent treatment of Geneva’s Cam Cook – crosses midcourt. It doesn’t always last the entire game, but the group stays impeccably in character when
it wants to, falling silent whenever another player gets the ball, then working into a frenzy again should possession return to the point guard.

East point guard Cole Gentry smiled about the ritual after the Saints’ 58-52 win. He realizes it’s good-natured, but the 5-foot-9 sophomore has been known to absorb worse.

“I hear a lot of things, like, ‘Oh, you’re too short.’ ‘What grade are you in, really?’ Stuff like that,” Gentry said. “I’m sure those guys tune it out. But, I mean, our student section is the best in the conference, hands down. On a Saturday night, they could be doing tons of other things, and they’re out supporting us at Batavia. We love it. We really appreciate them.”

Havis to Roosevelt: Briahna Havis, a Batavia senior defensive specialist, recently committed to play her college volleyball at Roosevelt, an NAIA school in Chicago. A three-year varsity player, Havis led the Bulldogs in serve percentage and aces (38) in her final high school season.

• Kevin Druley is a sports writer for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or

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