WINNETKA — Those in attendance at Friday's state swimming preliminary round were in for a spectacle.
Four state records were bettered over the course of the afternoon, two of which were previously held by Olympian Matt Grevers in the 100-yard backstroke and the 50 freestyle.
"I think that after this group leaves, there will be a little drop-off," Cary-Grove co-op coach Rick Schaefer said of the quality of swimmers in recent memory. "I think over the last four years we have seen some of the most talented kids to ever come through Illinois. For some of these kids, to think they are ahead of where [Grevers] was at this time is pretty cool. I can always say 'I remember when I was there.' "
When Schaefer was talking about the quality of swimmers he was sure not to leave off one of his own, Michael Hamann.
Hamann competed in the maximum of four events on Friday — two relays and two individual events. He was disappointed with his 100 butterfly race as he didn't advance to today's finals because he didn't crack the top-12, but he was particularly pleased with the 200 individual medley.
Hamann placed third overall after swimming a personal-best 1:51.53. With that time he earned himself a spot in the finals with a shot at the state title. He was just 0.31 seconds off the top-qualifier in the event.
"I was just excited," Hamann said. "Right away in my fly I was gliding so I knew during the race I had places to improve and when I saw [my time] I was really excited. It was a great time and I know I have room to improve which is more exciting I think."
The senior said that he miscalculated the amount of time between the IM and the butterfly event which caused him to be a little more tired than he would have liked. But the appearance in the finals overshawdows any ill-thoughts as the four-time state-qualifier can now add to his long list of accomplishments.
"I'm a big believer in that everything happens for a reason," Hamann said. "I will have just one event to focus on tomorrow. All I have left is 200 yards in my high school career and I am going to make it one hell of a 200 yards."
Schaefer was excited for his top swimmer and for a chance to come back and coach for another day.
"For three years, he hasn't made it to a final so this is a huge accomplishment for him," Schaefer said. "He finally gets that off his back and it is very encouraging to see how close he is to the top. His mental attitude is going to be completely focused on that so maybe it's a good thing he just has one on his plate."
"This is his last swim and if he goes out and swims the best he ever has, he will be a state champion."
For the other area swimmers the day didn't go as well as hoped.
Woodstock co-op's Adam Steinken placed in the middle of the pack in the 100 freestyle but didn't improve on his sectional times nor did teammate Henry Ganter in the 50 freestyle. Huntley's Matthew Haage added about one-second in his 50 swim as well.
Josh DeDina was the only swimmer to drop time from the previous week's sectional meet. He dropped about one-second from his 200 IM. Teammate Alex Reinbrecht added seven seconds to his sectional time in the 500 freestyle and swam slower in the 200 freestyle.
"Disappointing," Golden Eagles coach Rick Andresen said of his swimmers performances. "Josh had a better IM but everything else was a let down. I thought Alex would have swam much better than he did but we just haven't figured out his rest period. Luckily he is a junior and we have another shot at this and we'll have to do something different for nest season."
The state meet is notorious for producing slower times than in sectionals because of the tricky rest and tapering period as most kids are fully rested in order to get to state. Their bodies are then not fully conditioned and the result is slower times.
"A lot of times the novelty is just getting to the meet," Schaefer said. "I've seen it happen to a lot of kids and I'm glad our 400 freestyle relay improved by a second. It's tough [to perform worse] when you prepare so hard to get to this meet."