Salomon emerges as star as Titans place 18th at State

John Adkisson, co-sports editors

On Feb. 22-23, the South men’s varsity swim team received 18th place at the IHSA State meet.

This year’s season, according to senior Ethan Spalding, was marked with a lot of uncertainty as to how the team would perform due to the loss of alums Ryan Brander, J.J. Connor, Ryan Hianik and Thomas Pollick, all of whom having earned points at State the year before. However, Spalding feels that the team exceeded expectations, amassing a 7-1 record in dual meets.

“We knew we had to step up and make up for that, and though we didn’t place ninth like we did last year, we still had a very successful season,” Spalding said. “We showed a lot of depth, and while we didn’t score as high at State as we have in the past, I still think we performed well. There were really good performances even among the guys who didn’t score points at State, and I think overall it was definitely a successful season.”

Using all of this, the men headed into the CSL Conference meet Feb. 9 expecting, according to Spalding, to get second behind the eventual State-champs, New Trier. However, head coach Keith MacDonald feels that the team underperformed.

“Conference was, at times, a train wreck because we underperformed,” MacDonald said. “That sometimes happens because the majority, almost the entire team, was focused on sectionals, which was the following week. Individual times were not where they needed to be.”

Despite not getting the times they had hoped for at Conference, they bounced back at the Sectional meet Feb. 16. Eight swimmers, including seniors Spalding, Tommy Cahill and Bob Meyer; juniors Jake Nelson, Seamus Heneghan and Kevin Benson; sophomore Jon Salomon; and freshman Sam Salganik, as well as sophomore diver Aaron Ach, all qualified for the State meet, and the team received third place, behind Loyola and New Trier. According to MacDonald, the team performed up to expectations and set themselves up nicely for the State meet.

“Sectionals was so much better,” MacDonald said. “Everyone swam [really] well. We had some great swims. It was unfortunate that our 400 free relay didn’t qualify, and that was disappointing because we have qualified all three relays every year I have been here, so for that relay not to qualify was a little disappointing.”

Most of the team was rested for the Sectional meet, which, according to MacDonald, was to ensure that as many people would qualify for State as possible.

“It’s so hard to make the State meet, and to be at the State meet is so exciting so we try to get as many people as we can to the State meet,” MacDonald said. “So our focus is usually to get as many guys as we can across, and by doing that we have to focus a lot of our training towards the Sectional meet, and this year it paid off.”

With a decent showing at the State meet, MacDonald was very pleased with the team’s performance. According to MacDonald and Spalding, the team always has a goal of making the top 12, and although they failed to do that for the first time in MacDonald’s tenure as a coach at South, he was very happy with his team’s performance.

“The State meet was great,” MacDonald said. “We lacked the stars to crack the top ten, which we would have liked, […but to] swim as well as they did […] that was a point of pride for our team.”

Despite the lack of star-level depth, Salomon still shined at the State meet, getting third place in the 200 IM and swimming on the 200 Freestyle relay consisting of himself, Cahill, Heneghan and Benson. According to Salomon, this was a great experience and is good for future meets.

“I felt that I really succeeded at State in my individual swims, and I will use this experience to help motivate myself for the next two years,” Salomon said.

Overall, MacDonald feels that the team left everything in the pool, and they were model athletes both in and out of the pool all season. He was particurly thrilled by Salomon and the 200 free relay’s performance at the meet.

“I thought it was a great end of the year,” MacDonald said. “We had a really good Sectionals where we qualified a bunch to the State meet. That was exciting for us, and then we performed very well at the State meet, having Salomon final in a couple races, our 200 free relay final and pretty much everyone else improved their time at State.”