WINNETKA – Michael Hamann stood on the starting block behind Lane 4 with a fourth-place medal draped around his neck. As he stood, posing for a few pictures in his Cary-Grove warmup, he reached out with his right arm and pointed to his parents sitting in the crowd.
It was hard to fight back the tears.
“I pointed at my mom and my dad in the stands because they’ve done a lot for me for the past 12 years,” Hamann said in an emotional moment, “driving me to swim practices, supporting me and giving me the opportunity to go to nationals. I just can’t thank them enough for all they have done for me.”
His parents watched as their son, a four-time state qualifier for Cary-Grove co-op, raced on Illinois’ biggest stage in the state finals for the first time. He was in the thick of the 200-yard individual medley during the first two legs – the butterfly and backstroke – but the field opened a lead on him during the breaststroke portion. The other five competitors were state qualifiers in the breaststroke.
But true to his word, he gave it all he had in the final 50 yards and finished in a time of 1:52.75 in his final race as a high school swimmer.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Hamann who will swim at the University of Pennsylvania next year. “I never had a chance to swim in the top six before. It was exciting to be here, and I was glad I finished my senior year the way I did.
“It’s tough that its my last time doing it. I don’t get to hear [the starting beep] again here in high school. I wanted to go out with a bang and give it all I could.”
Trojans coach Rick Schaefer wore a grin as he clapped when Hamann stepped on the fourth-place starting block. He knew firsthand what Hamann had put into this season, and seeing his swimmer reap the rewards meant something special to Schaefer. The coach had nothing but praise for Hamann, who has been a leader both in and out of the pool for the Trojans.
“He’s a kid that has invested quite a bit in swimming and he has seen a chapter of his career that is coming to a close,” Schaefer said. “It’s an emotional ride. He had a chance where he was right there in the thick of things and I know he gave it all he’s got, but he was just a little bit short.”