No pun intended, but in order to compete at the highest level of Illinois boys swimming, your team must have depth.
You have to have guys like Neuqua Valley’s Steffan Anderson, who took sixth in the 200-yard freestyle in 1:51.50 at Saturday’s Metea Valley Varsity Mustang Invitational and led off the Wildcats’ meet-closing 400 freestyle relay, which took third in 3: 18.91.
That helped propel Neuqua Valley to third place in the star-studded meet with 368 points. DuPage Conference brethren Waubonsie Valley was second with 386.5 points, a shade behind team champion Oswego East with 400.5.
“Two years ago, we had a really fast team,” Anderson said. “Over the past year or two, we’ve had to learn to use our lower guys and take advantage of everyone to get as many points as possible.”
Want more proof? Try Naperville North senior Adrian Lam, who ran a leg on the winning 200 medley relay (1:35.95) and finished fourth in the 50 freestyle (22.46). The Huskies’ Jonathan Wang won that event in 21.74 seconds.
“I appreciate the team we have and how supportive we are of each other, and I think that’s just a big part of what the depth of a team means to me,” said Lam, who took fourth in the 100 breaststroke in 59.23 . Wang was third in 58.13. All that placed the Huskies fourth with 360 points.
But some guys are learning how to succeed in that supporting case role. Take Waubonsie Valley’s Alex Schwartz.
“I’m putting him in a whole bunch of scenarios,” coach Chris Hagenbaumer said. “This season has been the biggest shock to his system. So I’m trying to get him in a scenario where he’s most uncomfortable, because I have to be able to trust him to take our team to state.”
Schwartz raced the anchor on the Warriors’ meet-opening 200 medley relay, fourth in 1:39.29. Naperville North, with Lam, Wang, Ethan Herscher and Alvin Ng won that event in 1:35.95. That group also on the 200 freestyle relay in 1:27.14.
Schwartz showed his mettle in the 50 freestyle, finishing tied for fifth at 22.63, and then anchored the Warriors’ B team 400 freestyle relay to seventh in 3:29.25.
Then there’s West Chicago sophomore Nathan Lindstrom, who broke out to win the 100 backstroke in 54.85. Teammate Ryan Fors was third in 55.29. Depth was key for WEGO, which took sixth with 284 points and got another winner from Brady Johnson in the 100 breaststroke (56,.94).
“It really helps relays, since you have four people for a relay,” Lindstrom. “For three relays you need 12 people, so it’s very helpful to have a lot of swimmers.”
Benet took fifth with 298.5 points, and while perennial state qualifier Jack Larson was his usual self — second in the 50 freestyle (22.27) and a member of both third-place finishing relays, the 200 freestyle (1:29.94) and 200 individual medley (1:38.46) — consider the efforts of junior Jake Yuknis. He participated in both relays and finished eighth in the 50 freestyle (22.66).
Benet finished fifth with 298 points, and Yuknis reflected on where his team’s depth will hopefully pay off later.
“That 200 free relay means a lot to us,” he said. “Last year we missed the state cut by .01.”
A few other depth guys of note: Metea Valley’s Henri Marchand, who helped the Mustangs take seventh in the 200 freestyle relay (1:31.78) and thus a seventh-place team finish with 197 points. Glenbard West/South’s Drew Denenberg helped the co-op to eighth place with 193 points. He anchored the 400 freestyle relay, which took ninth in 3:32.37. And West Aurora’s Bradley Reimer was ninth in the 200 IM (2:07.06).
“We have a lot of depth and I knew we were going to do good,” Denenberg said. “I had no doubts.”