By Sean Fuchs
Wildcats coach Chad Allen said he wants 90 percent of his swimmers to advance to the state meet out of Saturday's sectional at Naperville Central.
That works out to roughly two swimmers in each event plus all three relays. While Allen knows this is a lot to accomplish, he thinks it is an accurate gauge for his team.
"I think everybody has a shot," Allen said. "I hate to put pressure on every single person to make the cut. ... I think we could go over 90 percent, but that is a pretty good goal."
One big change for the Neuqua lineup from the Wilcats' dominating performance at the Upstate Eight Meet on Feb. 2 is that two-time defending state champion Brian Alden will be swimming the 100-yard freestyle. At the UEC meet, Alden swam the 50 free, but was entered in the 100 butterfly instead of the 100 freee. Two weeks ago, Allen hinted that Alden might not swim both sprint freesytle events at the sectional.
Also, Kevin Overholt will swim the 100 free instead of the 500 free.
Benet coach Mike Rigali said he would label the sectional a success if he can get one person in each individual event to state, along with all three relays.
"That would be spectacular," Rigali said. "If we can do that, I will be happy."
A big boost for Benet is the expected return to competition of Dave Vandendorpe. The team captain missed both the Fox Valley Inviational and the Metro Catholic Aquatic Conference meet because of an ankle injury he suffered at school.
Rigali said Tuesday that Vandendorpe, who should swim the 200 free and the 100 fly, has ditched the crutches and cane he needed over the past few weeks and has been able to dive off the blocks in practice.
"I'm pretty encouraged with his progress," Rigali said.
Expected to make a third trip to the state finals in the 100 breaststroke is teammate Connor Binnig. Other good bets to advance for the Redwings are Dan Garvy (100 backstroke) and Paul Pallardy in one of the freestyle sprints.
Most observers also expect swimmers such as Naperville North's Wil Heidler, Jackson Hill and Conor Handley or Waubonsie Valley's Jim Zuponeck, Jack Poletto and Taylor Pattison, or Central's Ben Reasons, Bobby Rickert and Tyler Hsieh to do their dammage this weekend. North coach Kurt Johns said that doesn't make it any easier pressure-wise for that bunch because it's difficult to compete at that high of a level two weeks in a row.
"It's almost a detriment for the kids who are confident they will qualify for state," Johns said.