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Three members of the 400-yard freestyle relay team turned in personal best splits for Evanston’s swim team Friday at the Illinois High School Association state prelims.

Now they’ll get another chance to do it again — and maybe win a state championship, too.

The foursome of Adrian Lafont-Mueller, Christopher Russo, Ryan Knohl and Joe Seguine-Hall turned in the third fastest preliminary clocking in the field at the Burton Aquatic Center and paced ETHS qualifiers for Saturday’s finals.

Both Russo and Seguine-Hall earned individual spots in the consolation heat in the 100 freestyle Saturday, and the pair will also compete in the consolation heat of the 200 freestyle relay along with teammates Christian Stankovic and Axel Lafont-Mueller. The six fastest times in each event qualify for the championship heat, with the next six times in each event advancing to the consolation heat.

Evanston head coach Kevin Auger changed his 400 relay lineup from the sectional, even though the Wildkits had posted the fastest time statewide. But the veteran coach knew the Kits would have to swim even faster than that sectional effort of 3 minutes, 7.98 seconds to do any damage in the finals.

So he added junior Ryan Knohl to the mix and Knohl responded with a personal drop of one and one-half seconds (to 47.1) that helped boost Evanston to an overall clocking of 3:07.89. Lafont-Mueller (47.9), Russo (46.5) and anchor man Seguine-Hall (46.2) only trail Normal University High (3:06.33) and New Trier (3:07.34) coming out of the prelims and they know a state title is within their grasp.

So is the school record of 3:06.93, established by a foursome that did win the state championship back in 2001.

“Now that we’re guaranteed we’ll be in the top six, tomorrow is all about racing,” Auger said. “We knew that time coming out of the sectional wasn’t going to stand. But the state championship is a possibility because no one turned in a time today that we can’t beat.

“If all four of them come out and catch lightning in a bottle, we’ve got as good a chance as anyone. I still think Adrian (a sophomore who just cracked the varsity lineup for the postseason) may have a better swim in him. And Chris is right there too, if he can push himself over that last hurdle.

“It just shows that all of those kids have a lot of heart, to be able to rebound from what they probably perceive as poor performances. If they’d turned in those times last week at the sectional, they’d be jumping for joy instead of being disappointed. It’s just that they swam so great at the sectional and they couldn’t match those times today. Their expectations were just so high.”

Seguine-Hall (47.21) and Russo (47.25) claimed the last two consolation spots in the 100 freestyle, although Russo entered the prelims with the sixth fastest qualifying time of 46.68. They came on strong as half of the 200 freestyle relay unit, too, with Seguine-Hall churning to a 21.06 on the second leg and Russo bringing them home first in their heat with an anchor leg of 20.94.

In that relay, Evanston’s time of 1:26.04 was faster than its winning sectional effort and only a half second behind the sixth fastest qualifier, Naperville Central at 1:25.66.

Close didn’t count for junior Maciej Olszewski, the most frustrated of the Kit individual competitors. He was left on the sidelines despite supplying the 14th fastest qualifying time in the 100 breaststroke (59.13) and 14th in the 200 individual medley (1:56.34).

Olszewski’s breaststroke sprint was just fractions off his school record time of 58.82 at the sectional.

“The difference between his time last week and this week was this,” said Auger, clapping his hands together. “He was just a little less streamlined today.”

Knohl’s bid to advance in the 500 freestyle fell short with a time of 4:40.53, one second off at least a consolation berth. Earlier in the 200 freestyle, he posted the 20th fastest prelim time of 1:44.19. Both times were slower than his sectional performances.

Also representing ETHS in Friday’s prelims were Seguine-Hall in the 50 freestyle (21.89) and Jake Girard in the 200 IM (1:58.61). The 200-yard medley relay team of Christian Stankovic, Olszewski, Knohl and Russo was timed in 1:37.12, 18th fastest overall.

Source: ETHS Sports Information

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