Boys Swimming: IMSA’s Steven Tan thrives at Metea Valley Sectional
Updated: February 18, 2012 7:08PM
Less means more for IMSA swimmer Steven Tan.
The sophomore became the first swimmer in his school’s history to qualify for the state meet when he won the 100-yard freestyle at Saturday’s Metea Valley Sectional.
Tan’s time of 46.87 beat Naperville North senior Andrew Eiken, a 2010 state medalist in the event, by .06.
“I just feel really happy but I’m also glad that I was able to do this for IMSA because we work really hard as a team,” Tan said.
Tan, who also qualified by taking second in the 100 backstroke behind defending state champion Sean Lehane of Naperville Central, will be joined at state by sophomore teammate Andrew Liang, who was second in the 100 breaststroke. The Titans also qualified their 200 medley relay team of Tan, Liang, senior Matt Tsao and junior Nate Suek.
It was a milestone day for IMSA, a selective enrollment school of about 650 students that admits roughly one in every three students who apply and focuses mostly on academics.
“We’re the little match and science school that could,” IMSA coach Kevin Satler said. “It’s really cool for someone from IMSA who is so smart already to go out there and prove that kids that are so smart can also be really good at sports, too. Just being a straight A student doesn’t mean that you can’t also try to be a state champion.”
But at IMSA it means you don’t have as much time to train. Tan, a transfer from Waubonsie Valley, and Liang, who transferred from Metea Valley, noticed the difference.
“Last year at Waubonsie we had much more time in the water,” Tan said. “At IMSA we are more focused on academics, so that’s why we have less time in the pool. So any time we’re in the pool we’ve got to work harder and harder.”
Another swimmer who worked harder than usual this season and made history Saturday was Michael Stack, who became Metea Valley’s first sectional champion by capturing the breaststroke in 57.65, the fastest time in the state this year. The senior won Metea’s first state medal last year when he placed 12th in the breaststroke and will be aiming much higher at next weekend’s state finals at Evanston.
“I want to win it,” Stack said. “I trained my can off all season so I’m just hoping another week of rest and a good mindset for next week and good racing, with my ability, I should be alright.
“It’s been a rough season. Winter break we were up seven hours a day with cross-training, circuit training and dry land. I’ve got a good week ahead of me of laying low and hopefully next week bring it home.”
Naperville North is looking to bring home a trophy, perhaps even the state title, and did nothing to suggest it can’t do it. The Huskies qualified 11 swimmers and won all three relays to take the team championship with 282 points. Naperville Central was a distant second with 200, 9.5 ahead of Neuqua Valley.
“I believe our team has a lot of potential to win,” Naperville North junior Eric Curia said. “As long as we keep pushing and keep visualizing our races, have that mental drive that we’ve been having this entire season, I honestly don’t think anyone can stop us. We have a very good team. This is a once-in-a-blue-moon team and I can’t wait for state.”
Curia had a breakthrough meet, dropping a whopping 10 seconds off his personal best time to upset teammate Kevin Butz and win the 500 freestyle in 4:33.86, the second-fastest time in the state this year. Butz, a senior who was fourth at the 2011 state meet, was second in 4:41.83.
“I’m astonished,” Curia said. “I honestly thought that I was going to go 4:40 pace. The fact that I went as fast as I did, I was shocked. Nothing describes how happy I was after that race.
“Butz is an incredible swimmer. He and I pace each other all the time and if it wasn’t for Kevin Butz I would not be in this position right now.”
Butz is part of a terrific senior class that also includes Eiken, Nick Bessler and Tom Hubbard. That quartet won the 400 free relay in 3:09.09, while Eiken, Butz and Hubbard teamed with junior Sam Hiller to win the 200 free relay and Bessler and Hubbard partnered with Hiller and senior David Healy to take the 200 medley relay.
“Relays are huge for us,” Eiken said. “We have really high expectations for our relays. No one was fully tapered on our relays so we feel like we’ve got a lot of time to drop on all three relays still.”
Eiken, who missed all of last season following shoulder surgery, clocked the second-fastest time in the state in winning the 200 free in 1:41.65, while Bessler took the 200 individual medley in 1:54.18 and 100 butterfly in 51.18.
“I think today went about as good as I would have wanted it to,” Eiken said. “I’ve been a long time waiting for this meet. I remember watching it last year and it feels great to be back in this meet. We had some outstanding swims today, especially from Eric Curia, and so we’re excited with the way it turned out and I can’t wait until next week.”
The other individual winners were Naperville Central senior diver Kyle Faulkner, who scored 390.2 points to beat teammate Joe Gucwa by 15.4 points, and Waubonsie Valley junior Adam Stacklin, who prevailed in the 50 free in 21.72.