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St. Charles East's Shanel advances to state swim finals

St. Charles East’s Will Shanel competes in the 200-yard individual medley event during the IHSA boys state swim meet Friday at Evanston High School.
St. Charles East’s Will Shanel competes in the 200-yard individual medley event during the IHSA boys state swim meet Friday at Evanston High School.

EVANSTON – St. Charles East boys swimmer Will Shanel periodically checked his phone during Friday’s IHSA state swimming and diving preliminaries at Evanston.

Other than his fingertips, there was nothing particularly pressing. Shanel simply was being a senior in high school.

No matter what happens today, when Shanel competes in the championship finals of the 200-yard individual medley and 500 freestyle, he knows that won’t change. Maybe that’s why Shanel remembered to add “have fun” to his other objectives – warm down after events and stay hydrated.

“Everybody’s got their own races. Everybody’s got different times,” Shanel said. “If you’re sitting there and you’re too worried about it and you’re having trouble focusing on that, you’re going to go in, and you might not have a great swim. And after that, you get down on the weekend.

“You’ve got to have fun. You’ve got to enjoy what you’re doing. You’ve got to be out there and you’ve got to keep everybody around you doing the same thing.”

A week after turning in personal records in both races at the Saints’ home sectional, Shanel duplicated the feat at prelims, swimming 1:52.33 in the 200 IM and 4:34.79 in the 500 free.

Marmion’s 400 freestyle relay of junior Andrew Kasper and seniors Jack Fergus, Dan Creighton and Mike Burke earned the area’s only other championship finals berth, finishing sixth in prelims in 3:08.68.

“Hopefully, with a bit shorter day, not quite as long [today], we can pick it up,” Cadets coach Bill Schalz said. “We’re on the outside [lane], we’ve got nothing to lose. Get out there and see if we can’t move up a little bit.”

Marmion will send the same quartet to the consolation finals – pitting the seventh through 12th-best prelim finishers – in the 200 medley relay. Fergus, 11th in the backstroke (51.72), is in an individual consolation final.

St. Charles North’s lone second-day entry is the consolation final team of Stephan Hutchinson, Collin Bawolek, Ross Davis and Joe Myhre in the 200 freestyle relay. The North Stars finished 10th in 1:26.40.

North’s 400 free relay appeared to earn the ninth seed and a consolation final berth, but ultimately was disqualified because a swimmer left the starting block early. The North Stars were competing in Lane 5, which also was Glenbrook North’s home when it was disqualified in the previous heat.

North Stars coach Rob Rooney lamented not telling swimmers to be extra cautious on starts from a block he described as “wobbly” and “jerry-rigged.”

“I take away from the whole day that our boys obviously kept their word to the back of the [team] shirt. They kept the fight going through a little bit of a roller coaster ride,” Rooney said. “We have a completely new group of kids who have never been here before. The progress we saw from the beginning of the year to today – phenomenal.”

Geneva junior Nathan Jesko did not advance in either of his two events – the 200 free and 100 backstroke.

Another solo performer, West Chicago-Batavia co-op senior Alex Laleian, missed the cut in the 200 and 500 free but hardly was brooding. A club swimmer before joining the high school team this winter “to have fun,” Laleian is just 14 months removed from a car accident that jarred his back and led to two months of rehab.

Donning a red swim cap with a blue pawprint – a uniform staple after Batavia joined the program this season – the only time Laleian seemed to lose his smile was when he hit the water.

“It was a lot of fun. I had never swam with any of the kids before. I didn’t know any of the names coming into the high school season. And that was our first-year as a co-op, as well,” Laleian said. “It was completely new for everybody. There were none of those cliques, I guess you could say. Everybody fit together perfectly. It was great. It was honestly great. I’m happy I did it.”

Now that’s testimony Shanel would be proud of.

Naturally, he delivered something similar when sizing up the 500 free, where he shaved nearly three seconds from his sectional time and is seeded fifth.

“Just go after it,” Shanel said. “See what we can pull down.”

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