Swimmers keep records spinning

Hinsdale Central's stunning new pool has brought with it a wave of fresh opportunities for the Red Devil swim program.

Among them, the chance to set a brand new set of pool records. And the varsity boys team seized the moment from season's start - the Red/White intersquad meet - with records in the 200-yard medley relay, the 200-yard freestyle relay, the 400-yard freestyle relay, the 200-yard individual medley and diving.

Those first two lasted all of two weeks before they had to be rewritten as the team hosted Naperville Central. Senior diver Sami Kassir eclipsed his mark, too - then broke it again a week later against Oak Park-River Forest.

Head coach Bob Barber had a sense from the outset his roster would make quite a mark.

"My first captain meeting, these guys came in telling me that they wanted to break state records and they wanted to take down records in the pool," Barber said. "I wanted to kind of have them prove it to me."

Well, they have continued to prove it all season. A new top 200-yard freestyle relay time was also set against OP-RF, as was the 200-yard individual medley time when junior Jeffrey Hou shaved .65 seconds off sophomore teammate's Josh Bey's Red/White time.

Senior Noah Priest, a contributor to multiple relay records, pointed to the empty board on the wall where the records should be posted.

"It isn't filled yet because (the records) get broken so frequently," he said.

It became a budgetary matter, Barber admitted, to constantly be producing and removing plaques.

"At $30 or whatever they may cost, it can get a little expensive," he remarked.

Instead, they'll wait until after hosting sectionals Feb. 18 to populate the board.

And Barber said underclassmen have joined the fast and furious frenzy, too, taking down sophomore records that had been set by their elder teammates.

"So our freshmen and sophomores started beating up on the guys that are actually here," said Barber, then turned to the upperclassmen before adding, "which motivates my seniors, maybe."

They team hasn't simply been feeding on home cooking. Central relay teams have rewritten records at virtually every one of their away meets. At the St. Charles North Invite Jan. 21, junior Nojus Bertulis, Bey, sophomore Henry Guo and senior Vidar Carlbaum swam a history-making 1:36 in the invite's 200-medley relay.

Pretty good. Then consider that Carlbaum and Bertulis, along with juniors Nate Harris and Brody Marcet, swam it in 1:34.28 a week earlier to set a New Trier Invite record.

The swimmers say records are a rewarding byproduct of hard work and the joy of competing. But they check every host's pool and meet records to see which they can bring down.

"Before you're about to do a relay, everyone on the relay agrees that we can get a record, so everyone kind of hypes each other up to get the record," senior Andrew Fix said.

It's worth noting that Central swims in drag suits - think running with weights - making the accomplishments that much more impressive. When the team swam early in the season at Waubonsie Valley, site of a sectional meet, Barber felt the pool records were all but untouchable.

"I said, 'No way," he related.

Challenge accepted. The team broke both the 200 and 400 freestyle relay marks, the latter of which had stood since 1996.

"It's unheard of to hear these kind of times, in season, in drag suits," Barber said. "What these guys are doing is pretty special."

Kassir's made a habit of breaking his own Central pool record, doing it five times to elevate the high-water mark from 259.75 to 302.15.

"I wanted the record bad, so I worked for it," Kassir said, noting he was most excited when he took back the record from someone who had broken his. "I didn't think I was going to break it, and I ended up breaking it by like 15 points. It meant a lot to me because I know I get to see my name on the board when I come back."

Senior Andrew Gilbert said records are "a baseline, at this point."

Guo said beating one's competitors is always the main objective and cautioned against being obsessed with records.

"Records do come along with that but aren't something to be gawked at," he said.

Presumably, but at the rate they get taken down, it's hard to get too comfortable. Barber said a few more records are in their sights.

"We want to win our relays at state, and in order to do so, it's probably going to take close to the state records," Barber predicted.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean