ST. CHARLES – It was apparent once the swimming events started on Saturday afternoon at the Upstate Eight Conference meet that St. Charles North would take its third conference crown in a row.
Metea Valley led the meet after winning the diving completion in the morning, but the North Stars started the swimming portion by winning the first two events – the 200-yard medley relay and the 200 freestyle. North went on to finish in first or second place in eight of the remaining nine events to garner 279 points and the UEC title.
“It was an awesome meet for us,” North coach Rob Rooney said. “I thought we had an all-out team effort today from freshmen to retiring seniors to guys that are shaved and tapered to guys that are not.”
Host St. Charles East tallied 177 points for fifth place.
“What a great conference. It was a strong meet, fast from top to bottom,” East coach Joe Cabel said. “The kids looked great today. We had some incredible drops [in times.]”
Waubonsie Valley (235), Metea Valley (207) and Neuqua Valley (202) finished between the two St. Charles schools.
The only event in which the North Stars did not finish in the top two was the 200 freestyle relay. North placed fourth.
In addition to winning the 200 freestyle (1:42.24), North’s Kyle Gannon took top honors in the 100 freestyle with a time of 48.07.
Other North champions included Spencer Gray in the 500 freestyle (4:42.35) and Nick Kowaleski in the 100 butterfly (52.03).
Kowaleski and Gannon also swam in the victorious 200 medley relay with Austin Stapella and David Chokran. The team took the event with a time of 1:36.75.
Kowaleski won the 100 butterfly by a hundredth of a second over Waubonsie Valley’s Adam Stacklin.
“That was crazy,” Kowaleski said of his razor-thin win. “Coach Rooney told me [before the race] to keep up with [Stacklin] the whole time and at the end, put my head down and don’t breathe, so that’s what I did.”
In the event just before the 100 butterfly, Kowaleski had to settle for second in the in the 50 freestyle (22.45) when Michael McWhirter of Waubonsie Valley bested him by less than three-tenths of a second with a time of 22.24.
“I slipped off the block and that got me a little upset,” Kowaleski said.
The incident made him determined to do better in the 100 butterfly.
“That can’t happen again, so I knew I had to focus and get it done,” Kowaleski said.
Will Shanel was the Saints top finisher. He took second place in the 500 freestyle with a time of 4:49.20.
“It was the best I have done by three of four seconds, so I’m pretty happy with that,” Shanel said.
The North Stars also placed more than one swimmer in the top six slots in six of the individual events. Joey Quan, who swam in the second heat of the 500 freestyle, took third place with a time of 4:56.36.
“To win this meet, that’s kind of what you have to do,” Rooney said of placing more than one swimmer in the top six.
In the diving competition, Max Schmitt of St. Charles East took second (365.40 points) behind Metea Valley’s Peter Rodriguez (369.40). North’s Ronnie Hansen finished eighth with 254.85 points.