Last year, the Cary-Grove co-op boys swimming relay teams seemed to give everything they had to reach the state meet. They accomplished that feat, getting two relays to the season’s ultimate meet, but left disappointed when they swam multiple seconds slower on the first day of state than their qualifying times.
Saturday felt different. The relay team of Omid Babakhani, Cameron Castro, Kolin Fadden and Ethan Hare qualified for state in the 200-yard freestyle relay, but Hare, the lone senior, said he felt like there still was room to improve this year.
“I think last year, as far as the relays go, we were pretty much as close to perfect as we could be at sectionals, and this year in the 200, that was definitely not the case,” Hare said. “So, we’ve been talking a lot about the stuff we can tighten down on, and we’re actually going to change the order up a little bit, so I think we’ve got a good shot to surprise some people, and I think we have a realistic chance to, hopefully, get in the top 12.”
The first day of the state meet begins at 3 p.m. Friday at New Trier in Winnetka. The top 12 swimmers in each event advance to Saturday, with the top six competing in the championship final and the next six competing in consolation finals. Finals begin at noon Saturday.
“It feels absolutely amazing,” Hare said. “Going to high school state is something I’ve been dreaming about doing since I was about 12, when I started swimming year-round pretty intensely. It was just so cool to go last year, and this year I’ve got a great group of guys going with me. I already know it’s going to be an awesome experience, regardless of how we do. Pretty much could not ask for a better way to end my high school career.”
The Trojans qualified with a time of 1:27.62 at sectionals, the 28th-fastest time of 34 qualifying teams. Last year, the cutoff for the top 12 finalists was 1:26.86 in the 200 freestyle relay, with C-G missing by less than a second at 1:27.34.
If the Trojans can get back to the second day, they would be the first C-G relay team to place at state.
“We’ve been talking a lot about finaling, and we really do think we have a great shot at doing it,” Babakhani said. “It would be crazy if we did. ... Just thinking about it gets me excited.”
Hare is the only returning member who swam on the state relays (200 and 400 freestyle relays) last season, with Babakhani, now a junior, going as an alternate last year.
“I’m a little nervous. I’d be worried if I wasn’t,” Babakhani said. “Honestly, I’m excited. It’s a great opportunity to just go out there and swim.”
Castro and Fadden are sophomores who will be taking in the state’s biggest stage for the first time.
“We’ve just been trying to remind them that it’s just like any other swim meet. You’ve done these races a million times,” Hare said. “It’s an absolutely electrifying atmosphere. Just do your best not to let it get to you.”
Hare also qualified as an individual in the 200 freestyle. His qualifying time was 1:44.01, putting him 29th out of 39 qualifiers. It’s his first time going to state in an individual event.
“I’ve been varying up how I’m spending my time in the pool this week, making sure to get enough yards in still but also focusing on the key aspects to a good 50 sprint,” Hare said. “But I’m excited for the 200. Again, I feel like I could do a little bit better from sectionals. So I think I’ve got a good shot to place pretty well.”