Boys swimming | Normal U-High wins downstate-themed state meet

Chicago-area teams have dominated the boys state swimming and diving meet, with the only non-Chicagoland team champion coming in 1933 when Rockford turned the trick.

That 81-year streak came to an end Saturday in Evanston when Normal U-High earned a dramatic team crown by overtaking Libertyville in the day's final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay.

The Pioneers came into the event trailing the Wildcats by five points, but the 32 points they earned by winning the race gave them 123. Libertyville's third-place finish in the relay brought its total to 120. Hinsdale Central was third with 108 points and Naperville Central came in fourth with 95.

"This is the meet to remember; we had one goal coming in and we did it," said U-High junior Jake Miller, whose day included swimming the anchor leg on the winning relay, setting a state record in the 200 individual medley and winning the 500 freestyle.

"Downstate (swimming) doesn't get as much credit as maybe we deserve. But we put in the same amount of work and we proved that we can come up here and compete with these guys."

Libertyville, which had never earned a team trophy , made a quick statement when its 200 medley relay opened the meet by setting a state record of 1 minute, 31.55 seconds. The Wildcats also got a win from senior Alex Snarski in the 100 backstroke, and junior Matt Harrington was second in the 100 butterfly.

"U-High did everything they needed to do to win," said Snarski, a Northwestern recruit. "There's nothing for us to be sad about. We've got no regrets."

The meet's downstate flavor also featured Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin's Ryan Held, who joined Miller as the day's only two-time individual winner. Held was spectacular in setting state records in both the 50 (19.76) and 100-yard freestyles (43.73).

"I was definitely hoping to go faster today because I was a little more used to the pool," said Held, a North Carolina State recruit who fell just short of records in both events in Friday's preliminaries. "I'm beyond happy about how I swam. I left everything in the pool today. When I got done with the 100, I was light-headed."

Other local winners in the swimming events were IMSA's Steven Tan in the 100 butterfly and Metea Valley junior Jordan O'Brien in the 100 breaststroke.

Top 10 teams: Normal U-High 123; Libertyville 120; Hinsdale Central 108; Naperville Central 95; Glenbrook South 85; New Trier 80; Metea Valley 76; Peoria Notre Dame 65; Normal West 44; Evanston 38