A better start led to Maciej Olszewski’s best finish so far during the high school swim season.
Now the Evanston standout, after placing second in the 100-yard breaststroke at Saturday’s Central Suburban League South division meet, could be poised for a big finish to the year.
Olszewski trailed only defending state champion and conference record holder Jae Park of New Trier at the final touch, and led Evanston to a third place finish in the team standings at the Glenbrook South pool.
ETHS’ 260 team points left the Wildkits in third place behind New Trier (358.5) and host Glenbrook South (348). Maine South (133.5), Niles West (108) and Waukegan (55) rounded out the field.
Olszewski was clocked in a season-best time of 1 minute, .07 seconds after also racing to a season best time in the 200 individual medley, where he claimed fourth place in 1:59.99. And while chasing the indomitable Park can get to be frustrating, at least now the ETHS junior knows that there’s a good chance he’ll earn a rematch with the champ when Evanston hosts the Illinois High School Association state finals in two weeks.
Olszewski and his teammates must first qualify through next Saturday’s Niles North Sectional meet.
“That (breaststroke) was a great race for me,” Olszewski said. “I worked all last week on my starts, and on my technique on the turns. Those pull-outs are really important on a short course race like this. I’ve been improving on my starts, but I still have some work to do. I was one second off my lifetime best in the breaststroke, and with a fast suit today I’d have been right there.
“In the IM I really need to get more into the race in the last 50 in the freestyle. I’ve caught up with people in the breaststroke part of the race but I still need to finish better.”
Olszewski’s second place time brought him under the established IHSA qualifying cut in the breaststroke and head coach Kevin Auger knows there’s still room for improvement for the junior.
“He struggled with his starts early in the week, but he improved toward the end of the week,” Auger said. “He had a much better start today, but he’s still not up there with the big boys yet. Today was a step in the right direction. He’s really great in the 200 IM but when you’re coming from behind like that, you have to stay closer. Today (third place finisher from New Trier) Matt Weiser could see him coming, but he still didn’t get Maciej until the last stroke.
“Maciej has really been consistent for us all year, especially in the big meets. He got up for our invitational with a season best and at New Trier’s relays, too. He got another season best against Hinsdale Central and here today he got another season best.”
Besides Olszewski, the Kits also counted top five individual finishes from Christopher Russo, 4th in the 100 freestyle in 48.85; Axel Lafont-Mueller, 5th in the 50 freestyle in 22.53; Jake Girard, 4th in the 100 breaststroke in 1:01.96 and 5th in the 200 IM in 2:01.30; Ryan Knohl, 4th in the 500 freestyle in the fastest race of the day in a season-best 4:47.38 and 5th in the 200 freestyle in 1:47.35; and Adrian Lafont-Mueller, 3rd in the 100 freestyle in 48.21 and 4th in the 200 freestyle in 1:47.18.
Adrian Lafont-Mueller also contributed to third place finishes for ETHS in the 200 medley relay (1:40.84) and 200 freestyle relay (1:28.81). But the sophomore, even though he made the biggest splash with time drops of more than 5 seconds in the 200 and more than 2 seconds in the 100, still isn’t guaranteed a spot in the sectional lineup.
Lafont-Mueller would figure as a valuable addition in the 400 freestyle relay, but Auger expects the foursome of Christian Stankovic, Russo, Knohl and Joe Seguine-Hall to lower their time of 3:14.07 from Saturday (good for 3rd place) considerably once they begin to fully taper over the next two weeks.
“To tell the truth, I expected those drops from Adrian because he’s just that good. But nothing else has really changed for us,” the coach said. “I expect all four of those guys on the long relay to be in the 46s when they’re rested and shaved, and I just don’t think Adrian can get there this year.
“Adrian has swum some great times for us for a sophomore. I think at the sectional he’ll get a shot at swimming the 50 free or 200 free, although it’s possible we could qualify for State with him on the medley relay next week, too.
“We’re in a different sectional this year and sectionals are always a stressful meet because a you’ve got to get those times. But all systems look go for us.”
Source: ETHS Sports Information