Boys Swimming: New Trier’s Reed Malone challenging the fieldEvan Surma of Lincoln-Way North swims in the 100-yard backstroke during the preliminaries of the IHSA Boys State Swimming Finals on Friday, February 24, 2012 at Evanston Township High School. | Jon Durr~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 11, 2012 8:13PM
Hinsdale Central senior Danny Thomson has been the king of distance swimming in Illinois for the past two years.
But now there is a true contender vying for his crown. New Trier junior Reed Malone gave Thomson, the two-time defending state champion in the 500-yard freestyle, everything he could handle during Friday’s preliminary round of the state finals at Evanston.
Thomson, who is trying to become just the second swimmer to win the 500 free three straight years, engaged in an exciting battle with Malone, who swam next to him in the same heat.
Both broke Thomson’s state record of 4:21.04, but it was Thomson who retained the record by timing 4:19.28, edging Malone by .10.
“I’ve gotten to know Reed over the past year,” Thomson said. “We’re good friends and it was just a really exciting race between the both of us. [Last] summer he did really well so I just figured it was going to be a good competition.”
The race was tight throughout, with neither swimmer leading by more than .20 at the turns. Malone, who beat his personal best time by six seconds, thought he had the talent to beat Thomson.
“The goal was to get the state record, but today is not about who wins or loses,” Malone said. “It’s about getting to Saturday. To race Danny was a lot of fun.
“For the first 200 I felt pretty good and then that middle 100, from 200 to 300 [yards], it kind of hit me. Then the last 200 I tried to stay even with Danny and he got me on that last 50.”
Neither Thomson nor Malone was aware of the pace they were setting, focused as they were on trying to beat the other. The roar of the crowd told them they had done something great.
“I looked up at the clock and saw 2 up next to my name and I was like, ‘Oh, well, that’s okay,’” Malone said. “Then I looked further over and I saw 4:19 and I was like,’ Oh, alright, I’ll take that.’ I think it will be a great race tomorrow. It will be a lot of fun for the fans.”
Earlier, Malone set another personal best by getting the best time in the 200 individual medley. His clocking of 1:48.37 was just .22 off the state record. Thomson also did well in his quest to defend his state title in the 200 freestyle. He is seeded second (1:38.97), .01 behind Naperville Central senior Sean Lehane.
“I’m really excited for tomorrow,” Thomson said. “I think both of us are going to push each other and I can’t wait to see what we can do tomorrow.”
Barring multiple disqualifications, New Trier is poised to cruise to its second straight team title and sixth in the past nine years. The Trevians have the top seed in all three relays, including the 400 free in which Sam Skinner, Malone, Jack Mangan and Max Grodecki timed 2:59.76 to break the national record of 3:01.80 that had stood for 13 years, and the 200 free of Skinner, Nels Snyder, David Schriesheim and Grodecki, which set a pool record of 1:22.92, less than a second off the national mark.
“It was a great day from diving up until a couple minutes ago,” New Trier coach Mark Onstott said after the national record in the relay. “[The record] has been a goal that’s been out there, something we’ve been for all year long. I told them to go for it.”
The Trevians also have 11 swimmers in championship heats, including Mangan, who is seeded first in the 100 backstroke (49.37) and third in the 100 free, and Grodecki, who is ranked first in the 50 free (20.47).
“I think we’re really confident going into Saturday,” Malone said. “I think we have a chance to sweep all three relays.”
Mundelein junior Connor Black had the top time in the 10 free (44.77), just ahead of Grodecki, and Warren senior Chad Church’s 57.10 is the best 100 breaststroke time. Loyola junior Andrew Jovanovic, the defending champion in the 100 butterfly, is seeded first in 48.53, just .34 off the state record, and his teammate Michael Nash leads the diving with 319.75 points, 2.7 more than New Trier’s Jordan Sacks.