When you train every month of the calendar as a distance swimmer, two weeks out of the pool can seem like a lifetime.
Evanston senior Aidan Dillon is back on track now after a bout with mononucleosis that sidelined the distance star and put his final high school season in jeopardy.
Dillon delivered solid performances after rejoining the starting lineup this week and led the Wildkits to 11th place in the team standings on Saturday at the Evanston Invitational meet. He placed 4th in both the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 47.43 seconds) and 500 freestyle (4:49.17) and also swam in two relay races after also handling a full load of races in a Friday night dual meet loss to New Trier.
“I’ve never taken this much time off from swimming, and it felt weird to go right home from school instead of going to the pool for practice,” Dillon said. “I always get colds at this time of year and at first I thought that was what it was, not mono, and I just tried to push through it.
“I’m still not sure if I’m back to 100 percent yet. I had to be careful because I didn’t want to push it too much. After missing all that time when I came back to do (practice) sets I knew I should be doing at a certain pace, so I just had to let it be and take care of my body. The last two weeks I’ve felt better and better every day and it’s great to be able to build off of that. I’m a little tired now after back-to-back days of meets, but it really feels good to get back in the water and race.”
Dillon’s performances were the highlight for a Wildkit team that doesn’t feature many varsity veterans back in the lineup this winter besides the determined senior. Under the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association point table system for scoring at Saturday’s meet — which awards points for specific times in a given race, not a specific place — the Kits totaled 2,434 points and finished back in the pack behind powers New Trier with 3,006 and Arrowhead (Wis.) with 2,909 in the 18-team field.
Head coach Kevin Auger was glad to have Dillon, a University of Minnesota recruit, back to anchor the lineup.
“One good thing about it being an illness instead of an injury was that we knew eventually, he’d be back,” Auger said. “I was more concerned about how he’d feel than anything else, but he seems like he was able to recover fairly well.
“He swam that fast last night in the 200 (actually 1:46.79) and both of his times were good times today. But the way he raced in the 200 was really great because he moved up from 6th to 3rd and out-touched a couple of guys to do it. And in the 500 he was swimming all by himself (not in the final heat) because he didn’t have enough races to get a good seed time there, so for him to do that time in the 500 was great.”
“My time in the 200 was a little slower than I wanted, and I knew I had that 500 time in me,” Dillon said. “I just have to look at it as a great starting point for me. I can only go up from there. I did race well in the 200 and that’s something I can control more than my time right now. I’m definitely surprised that I was able to race that well today.”
“Overall, I thought it was a pretty good meet for us,” Auger added. “They took it upon themselves to focus on getting good times as a team and not worrying so much about places. I was impressed with Rafeal De Gouvea’s 100 freestyle (19th in 50.75) — he’s a lot more aggressive in that race and I like that — and John Martin dropped 6 seconds in the 500 (to 5:13.89) for us.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.