WINNETKA – The Cary-Grove co-op 200-yard freestyle relay team ran the gamut of emotions on the pool deck Friday evening at New Trier: confidence, exuberance, acceptance, hope and pride.
The Trojans' team of Ethan Hare, Kolin Fadden, Omid Babakhani and Cameron Castro won their preliminary heat Friday at the IHSA boys swimming state meet but fell short of advancing to Saturday's finals. The District 155 co-op team finished 21st overall with a time of 1:27.3. They missed the consolation finals (top 12) by 1.24 seconds.
"You know what, that was really fun," Hare, the lone senior and a team captain, said. "I mean, honestly, we were going in thinking we could be in the 1:26 range, thought finaling was a possibility, but even though we missed that, we came into state and we dropped time, which is something that we were not able to do last year.
"So I'm just really proud of these guys for not only holding it together but coming in and doing even better than sectionals. It was a lot of fun; great last race for me."
The Trojans took 0.32 seconds off their time from last week's sectional.
Coming into Friday's state meet, the Trojans decided to juggle their lineup, sending Hare, the only one with state experience, into the water first to set the tone. "We've got this," he calmly told his teammates before swimming a 21.96 and passing it off to Fadden in second place. The sophomore swam a 21.76, pushing the Trojans into the lead.
"I think coming off of Ethan, my momentum going into the water was just good and the hype of swimming in state on a relay that I haven't been to yet was an unforgettable experience," Fadden said.
Babakhani, a state alternate last year, swam the team's best split in the third leg, going 21.64. When Babakhani emerged from the pool and a teammate told him his split, he thumped his chest and let out a huge yell.
"I was just really pumped up," Babakhani said. "I've been a little frustrated with what I've been swimming this year. But that I had so much fun with it, to be honest, I could have gone the slowest time and still been psyched. Especially since we dropped time in that relay. So no matter what we did, that's a win."
Castro brought it home with a 21.94 in the last leg, holding on for the heat victory.
"First time here, obviously, an unforgettable experience," Castro said. "I was up in the stands last year supporting the guys, and it's just a whole different world to be down on deck, getting all the nerves building up within you."
The Trojans, who swam in the second of five heats, watched the next three heats from a corner of the deck as their chances of advancing faded.
"It's still state," Babakhani and Hare said to each other, hugging after the third heat all but eliminated them. There were brief refrains of "we've got a shot" after one team was disqualified, but after the fourth heat definitely eliminated them, they moved pool-side and enjoyed watching the final heat without keeping an eye on the scoreboard, other than to admire the winning times (1:22.24).
Long afterward, Babakhani still couldn't wipe the wide, beaming smile from his face.
"It's amazing, best feeling I've ever had," Babakhani said. He called the atmosphere and energy "not even comparable" to a typical meet. "I can't say anything, I'm speechless."
Hare also was the only local to qualify for an individual event, reaching state in the 200 freestyle. Hare swam a 1:44.36 in his state prelim, taking third in his heat but missing the cut for finals. He placed 26th out of 39 swimmers, missing out on the top 12 by 3.24 seconds.
"It was a really fun race. I liked it. I only gained about three-tenths from my sectional time (1:44.01), which was pretty good. I wanted to be in the 1:43s," Hare said. "That's a pretty good time, I'd say. I took 25th or 26th. That's a pretty cool thing for me to be able to say. It was just a really cool experience. All in all, lot of fun, good last meet."
Cary-Grove co-op (Crystal Lake Central), jr.
In his first state race, Babakhani swam a 21.64 third-leg of the 200-yard freestyle relay, the fastest 50-yard spit of his team.
1.24 seconds away from becoming the first relay team in program history to reach a state final.
And another thing ...
While the Trojans' 2016 200 freestyle relay finished 15th overall, compared to this year's team which finished 21st, this year's team was actually 0.04 seconds faster in the state prelims (1:27.3 vs. 1:27.34). The rest of the field was faster as well, however. Last year, the consolation finals cutoff in the 200 freestyle relay was 1:26.86, while this year it was 1:26.06.