Close didn’t count for Evanston diver Harel Anolick during preliminary qualifying at the Illinois High School Association state swim meet Friday at the ETHS Burton Aquatic Center.
Now the sophomore standout — just like the rest of his teammates — must wait until next year.
Anolick fell short, by 2.15 points, of advancement to Saturday’s finals and settled for the 13th best score after 8 dives Friday. Only the top 12 scorers earned spots in the finals and Anolick’s total of 301.90 didn’t make the cut.
Evanston’s other entries also failed to make the cut and the host Wildkits will only be represented on Saturday by sophomore Aaron Holzmueller, who will participate in three races in the Athletes With Disabilities category.
Anolick entered the competition coming off a school record performance at the Niles North Sectional meet, and easily advanced after the first 5 dives Friday morning.
That’s when the ETHS sophomore ran into trouble.
“My first dive of the semifinals was my front two and a half and I was leaning too far over the board at the start,” Anolick said. “There are still ways to keep that dive alive (and score well), but I didn’t ride the board well and because of that I didn’t get the height I wanted. It was short — and it wasn’t pretty.
“I have no excuses. I messed up. I was close and I didn’t quite seal the deal. I did improve over last year, and usually my front two and a half has been the most consistent hard dive for me this season. It’s been one of my best. But my other dives today weren’t good enough to back it up, either.
“It hurts because I wanted to be back on those boards tomorrow — not just watching. All I can do now is move on.”
Freshman diver Trevor Nelson put up the 20th best point total, at 190.80 points for 5 dives, and was eliminated in the preliminary round.
Evanston’s swimmers, meanwhile, were unable to match their sectional times in both individual and relay events. The 200-yard freestyle relay team came closest but was disqualified for a false start.
In the 200 medley relay, the team of Richard Alonso, Charles Davis, Rafael de Gouvea and Thomas Fies was clocked in 1 minute, 38.69 seconds, only 33rd fastest in the field. And the 400 freestyle relay unit of Evan Ziolkowski, Davis, de Gouvea and Adrian Lafont-Mueller settled for the 26th fast overall time of 3:14.01, despite a career best leadoff split of 48.17 by junior Ziolkowski.
Among the ETHS individual qualifiers, senior Lafont-Mueller posted times of 22.33 in the 50 freestyle and 47.84 in the 100 freestyle; senior Zach Grossman-Torres touched the wall in 53.05, half a tick off his season best in the 100 backstroke; and junior Fies was just off his season best in the 100 breaststroke in 1:00.98.
Except for Anolick, who reached the state finals for the second year in a row, Evanston’s seven other competitors who are underclassmen got their first exposure to the state final pressure and should benefit from that experience down the line, according to ETHS head coach Kevin Auger.
“With the exception of the divers, things went pretty much as we expected today,” Auger said. “They were all rested and shaved last week and they had to carry their tapers over to Part (Week) 2. Last week was a pretty good week for us, but if they swam the times they swam today at the sectional, they’d have been happy about that, too. No one swam poorly today. It’s not like we didn’t get up and really swim.
“The big deal for us this year, especially for the younger kids, was to get here. Hopefully the experience they got is a good sign for them going forward. Hopefully it whets their appetite and shows that maybe they can dream a little bigger, and achieve higher goals.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.