EVANSTON – Alex Reinbrecht talked for months about how he wanted to enjoy his final high school season. The Jacobs co-op senior took a lighter approach to the season and made sure to have fun despite bearing the pressures of being one of the state's top swimmers.
The senior could always be found smiling on pool decks and Saturday, during the second day of the two-day IHSA state finals, he had the biggest smile of all.
Reinbrecht qualified for the state meet all four years of his high school career, but Saturday marked the first time he advanced past the first day.
The area's top swimmer had two consolation finals cuts and made the most of his final day. He finished third in the consolation finals of the 200-yard freestyle – ninth overall. He entered the race seeded 10th but was able to move up a spot after a strong swim. His time was slower than what he swam during Friday's preliminaries, but it was still good enough to move him up a spot.
"I gained some time," Reinbrecht said, "but I moved up a place, so I'll take it."
The senior said he felt tired during the race, but the fatigue didn't show in the 500 freestyle, his next and final high school swim.
Reinbrecht won the 500 freestyle consolation finals in a personal-best time of 4:34.53, earning him seventh place overall. His time was good enough to place fourth, but he had to be in the "A" final for it to count as such.
From a cool calm before the race started, to a giddy excitement after he touched the wall, it was his best race of his career and he was in full control. Like usual, the senior started the race quickly and owned the heat's fastest first two 50-yard splits before dialing it back to a comfortable speed.
He played cat-and-mouse with several other swimmers in the heat, letting one gain some distance and a glimmer of hope for several laps before reeling him back in.
"It was a good one," Jacobs co-op coach Rick Andresen said. "He was relaxed and in command out there."
The race was tight until the final 150 yards, when Reinbrecht gave it all he had. Teammate Francis Ogaban, who acted as his lap counter, shook the numbers furiously. Almost as if he had flipped a switch, Reinbrecht's kick started spewing water several lanes over and his face tightened as he pushed his body to the limit.
"He had me for a bit," Reinbrecht said, "but when I got to the 300-yard mark I was making up ground and I just kept on saying, 'Let's go. This is my last race. You gotta get going.' So I just took off."
What happened next was a fitting end to Reinbrecht's high school career. He touched the wall almost two seconds ahead of the second-place finisher, Normal's Wyatt Harrison, and Reinbrecht couldn't help his smile from growing bigger and bigger.
"I wanted this so bad," said Reinbrecht, draped in his black and red warmup. "It really hasn't sunk in yet."