Posted: Friday, March 4, 2011 12:30 pm
By SEAN STILLMAKER Journal Sports
Loyola Academy's swim team may not have been expecting to place in the top six at state, let alone be battling for third place.
But the Ramblers swam with their heart, placing 4th with 92 points at the IHSA state swim meet Saturday at New Trier.
Normal took 3rd place inching ahead by only 4 points.
The Ramblers weren't swimming for achievement, though. They were swimming for their teammates.
Earlier in the season, senior captain Patrick Stein was hospitalized with a brain aneurysm. Then teammate Jason Yasko's father died.
"We were swimming for something bigger," said senior Rambler Justin Pasquesi.
The Ramblers entered New Trier's pool approaching it like any other meet.
"We just came in and had fun," said junior Brendan Hulseman.
The Ramblers' signature moment came in the 400-yard freestyle relay. Pasquesi started the relay with a good lead that Hulseman kept alive.
Patrick Rahill faced tough competition in the third lap. His exchange with Andrew Jovanovic had the Ramblers in last place.
But Jovanovic swam like a man possessed pushing past each of his competitors.
He did so breathing on nearly every stroke on his 75-yard point. In reality, he says he was keeping an eye on his opponents churning away.
"I thought what could be more fun than running over the competition," he said.
The Rambler crushed it placing the relay in 2nd (3:05.64), just ahead of 3rd place Normal (3:06.13).
"Our main goal was to come together as a team, have fun and we did that," Rahill said.
Accomplishing this goal was no more evident than the day the Ramblers lost the Catholic league swim championship by only 2.5 points.
Rahill was out sick for the Feb. 5 meet, which could have been a factor, but it didn't matter. The next day the whole team went to Chicago to visit Stein in the hospital. The team wasn't focused on the loss. Instead they laughed and brought their jovial spirits to Stein.
"That was the turning point," said Loyola coach Dennis Stonequist.
"There's power when you come together...when people are doing something for more than themselves you never know what you could do."
Jovanovic had no idea what he could do. The result was being crowned state champion in two events. He placed 1st in the 50 free (20.49) and 100 butterfly (48.73).
"Before I went into my races today I was thinking what Stein would say," Jovanovic said.
Stein's recovery is slowly progressing. He's unable to talk, but Jovanovic can't wait until he can to hear his teammate's reaction.
The Rambler was off like a bolt of lightning in the 50 free. His main competition was Shaun Wolfe from Bloomington in 2nd (20.51).
Jovanovic was able to savor the race a little more in the fly.
He had the longest underwater pull after his start, which easily gave him momentum to take the lead after the first 50 yards.
Sam Stewart from Champaign dropped off his tail after the last flip turn, but Connor Black from Mundelein picked up the pace.
But it wasn't good enough because another long underwater pull propelled the Rambler to the finish. Black came in 2nd, two seconds later (50.13).
Although his captain was hospitalized, Michael Manhard still felt Stein's presence on the diving board.
"I knew he was there with us," Manhard said.
The diver had the meet of his life ending his career placing 3rd in state with 452.70 points. He raked up the big points on his last dive, a forward one and half somersault with one twist.
Manhard went to the board and immediately took the dive without hesitating. He flipped up into the air like a contortionist twisting into the water with a minimal splash.
His 5132 dive scored the highest out of any dive in the final round Saturday.
"Everything we're doing individually we're not just doing it for our team but for Stein and Mr. Yasko," Manhard said. "It's a lot bigger than swimming and diving."
Other points for the Ramblers came from Pasquesi in the 200 free placing 9th in 1:41.61.
His 200 free relay along with Rahill, Hulseman and Jovanovic placed 6th in 1:25.35.
But the relay team all agreed they don't care about the 200 because, "it's too short," they said. They were more proud of their 400 free relay effort.
Glenbrook South has been training all season to get to this point and they did so with teammates stepping up to the challenge.
The Titans finished in 12th in state with 37 points. The focus was their 200 and 400 free relays. Key to the relays were the Ryans filling in at the last minute.
In the 200 free relay Ryan Hianik filled in with a phenomenal swim placing the relay in 3rd (1:25.02).
In the 400 free relay Ryan Brander filled in swimming out of his mind helping the relay place 10th in 3:10.24.
"I was really impressed with the relays," said Glenbrook South coach Keith MacDonald.
Just two days before the state meet junior teammate J.J. Connor was diagnosed with Lung QT syndrome, which sidelined him from competing.
Connor was instrumental in the relays helping qualify both of them for state. Despite the letdown he was there Saturday cheering on his teammates.
The Titans also scored points with senior Ryan Bach in the 50 free (12th, 21.58) and 100 free (11th, 47.07).
"It's been a great four years," Bach said.
In diving the Titans had senior Adam Klosowiak place 9th with 417.25 points.
Thinking about his form and staying loose he nailed his forward one and half somersault with two twists, a dive he's been "iffy" on all season.
"I was ready when I got on the board," Klosowiak said. "Technically I don't even have to warm up, it's all in your head."
Niles West made a showing with senior Konner Scott. The Wolf placed 3rd in the 200 free (1:40.56) and 5th in the 100 free (46.34).
Scott had a sizable lead in his 100 free heat, but after his last flip turn he came up hitting the lane line that may have played a factor.
"What can you do, I swam it like I meant it and I have no regrets," Scott said. "What it came down too was me swimming to the best of my ability."
Fremd made it through the water with senior Jeff Freund swimming like there was no tomorrow in the 500 free.
Fighting through fatigue the Viking shot through the water in his last 50 yards to place 12th in 4:39.65.
"It's nice and very satisfying," Freund said.
Buffalo Grove left their mark in the water with junior Ian Rodriguez.
The Bison took out his competition dropping another two seconds off his time to place 7th in 50.95.
"It was all in my head, I just went all out," Rodriguez said.
Swimming all year round certainly pays off, he said. He's already focused on next year where he's looking at dropping another two seconds at state.