Boys swimming overcomes adversity, triumphs at sectionals

Look at practically any freshman or sophomore on the ETHS boys swimming team, and you’ll notice one thing missing: their hair. With the return of a full season, the Kits have reinstated their most prized ritual—prompting underclassmen to make the ultimate sacrifice. But with each head turned bald, Evanston has been able to make leaps and bounds as a collective, tight-knit team.

Starting 2022 off strong, on Jan. 8 at the Evanston Invitational—the team’s largest competition besides State—the Kits finished in a historic third place. Although no ETHS swimmer placed first individually that day, Evanston was able to maintain other top spots; most other schools lacked the same depth. In the 200-yard freestyle, co-captain Aaron Martin finished second out of 35 swimmers, and fellow co-captain Charlie Herrick finished fourth out of 36 in the 100-yard backstroke. Ultimately, the Kits were able to beat out top rivals Loyola Academy and New Trier, among 15 other schools.

Head coach Kevin Auger credits this success to the team’s perseverance and dedication.

“We just trained real hard over the break, and the kids just got excited about swimming in their own pool at a big meet like that,” Auger says.

Throughout the entirety of the regular season, the Kits have achieved wins against Loyola, Highland Park, Niles West, Vernon Hills, Naperville North and Glenbrook South. Unfortunately, Evanston narrowly fell short to Maine South, New Trier and Glenbrook North.

Nonetheless, the team has been faced with an abundance of challenges this season—starting with their opponents.

“What we’ve learned this year is we’re in a really tough division. I think from a State-level team, we’re going to do really well [and] qualify a bunch of kids for state stuff, but we’ve also found out during the course of the season that our own conference is really strong as well,” Auger affirms. “So it’s been an interesting season.”

But the team’s adversities don’t end with its tough competition.

“We’ve had significant angst and continue to have significant angst over if somebody, all of a sudden, right before a big meet gets COVID. So, there’s that always hanging over the top of us,” Auger notes. “It’s great that we have been having these opportunities, but it also has been stressful that, at any moment, they could go away. So I think, in a way, the guys have been a little more stressed than usual, but they’re also a lot more thankful that they’re able to have [a postseason].”

On the other hand, the team has made progress from last season’s restrictions with the return of traditions and bonding opportunities. Thus far, the varsity squad has had dinners, Supreme Burrito outings, performed skits for the girls team and even seen their usual end of season banquet reinstated. As a result, the Kits’ athletic performance has improved as well.

“It helps knowing that this is something that has gone on, and this has been the kind of lead up to great performances in the past, and hopefully it’ll lead up to great performances going forward,” Auger elaborates.

Moving into the postseason, at the CSL South Conference Championships on Feb. 12, the Kits finished second out of the six. That day, first place finishes were made by Martin in the 200-yard and 100-yard freestyles, fellow senior Caden Hardy in the 200-yard IM and 100-yard breaststroke and sophomore Lucas Macy in the 500-yard freestyle.

Following Evanston’s impressive performance at Conference, the squad actually ended up winning Sectionals with 305 points to second place Loyola’s 253 on Feb. 19. And as a matter of fact, the team qualified 12 individual swimmers to State that day.

Going forward to next year’s season, Auger hopes to see the team’s underclassmen step up and continue the hard work of this year’s seniors. 

“We have a lot of seniors that are State contributors this year, and they’ve been good leaders,” Auger adds. “And I hope that that takes with the younger kids, and they see how well that these guys have been doing, and see the hard work and energy that they put into being good, and that that carries over into the rest of the team.”

As the Kits managed to grow and adapt to the many challenges that came their way, this year shaped out to be one of the most triumphant yet.