Ryan Knohl and the rest of the Evanston swim team proved Saturday that they’re positioned to make a postseason push this season.
Behind a pair of top 5 individual finishes by their junior distance ace Knohl, the Wildkits earned a fourth place team showing at the 49th annual Trevian Relays hosted by defending state champion New Trier.
It marked the best finish at the prestigious meet since 2005 for ETHS, which surged over the latter portion of the meet to finish with 96 points. The Kits trailed only New Trier (165), Hinsdale Central (120) and No. 1 ranked Libertyville (106) in the team standings in the 12-team field.
The meet format combined the times of two swimmers per event to determine total points, and also counted both junior varsity and varsity relay results. Evanston edged out both Stevenson and Neuqua Valley (95 points apiece) by placing 8th in the junior varsity 400-yard freestyle relay and 3rd in the varsity 400 freestyle race as both entries bettered their pre-meet seeds.
After claiming fifth in the 200 freestyle in 1 minute, 48.68 seconds, Knohl went the distance in the 500 freestyle with a season best time of 4:50.98, behind champion Nick Koto of Stevenson in 4:47.62.
It’s the second straight week that Knohl has lowered his time in the longer race, a good indication that the junior will be where he wants to be --- perhaps a point scorer for the first time at the Illinois High School Asociation state finals --- on the final day of the season.
“That 500 time was my best in-season time since I’ve been at Evanston,” Knohl pointed out. “That really makes me hopeful that at the end of the year now I can come down in time even more. I came into the season knowing I’d swim a lot of 500s this year, and I really put a lot of focus into that race.
“I’m always anxious before I swim the 500. It’s good to be anxious for any race, I guess, but this year I’m able to deal with it a lot better in the 500 and not get out too fast. It’s a long and painful race, not like the others where you’re in and out of the water in less than two minutes. Today I took the race out in a more controlled way and gradually built into it, instead of going out too fast. That helps set me up for the rest of the race when I can do that.
“The last two meets (counting last Saturday’s Evanston Invitational) have been really good for me. I dropped two seconds last week and one more second today, and it’s good because I got to swim against some other (elite) guys and pace off of them, and see how I measure up against them.”
“Ryan found out after last year that he may have had mono (mononucleosis) at the end of the season, and now I think he just feels better about swimming in general,” said ETHS coach Kevin Auger. “He’s a little more confident now and he has another year of maturity. You need that confidence to know that when you’re out there suffering like that, the payoff will be there at the end of the season for you.
“Those are Ryan’s two best back-to-back performances, for sure. I really thought our guys swam well today, and it’s a tribute to them for the way they were able to stand up and deliver, especially on those last two relays. We’re very confident about what will happen in the sectional meet as far as getting kids to State, and meets like this will set us up to score some points at State. These two meets were a good first step for us as a team.”
Evanston’s relay performances were especially noteworthy because a key member of all three units, Christian Stankovic, was absent due to a school band trip. The ETHS foursome of Karl Ortegon, Christopher Russo, Knohl and Joe Seguine-Hall combined for a 400 relay clocking of 3:18.37 to nose out the fourth place finisher in the race, Barrington, by 5-10ths of a second.
The Kits scored top six finishes in both 200 relay events. In the JV race, the team of Jake Girard, Maciej Olszewski, Evan Ziolkowski and Axel Lafont-Mueller took sixth in 1:35.74, and the varsity unit of Russo, Seguine-Hall, Knohl and Adrian Lafont-Mueller was clocked in 1:30.68, good for fourth place.
Besides Knohl, top individual efforts for the Wildkits came from Olszewski, third in the 100 breaststroke (1:01.47) and fourth in the 200 individual medley (2:03.91); Russo, third in the 100 freestyle (49.21); Jake Girard, ninth in the 200 IM (2:017.19); and Seguine-Hall, seventh in the 100 freestyle (49.49) and ninth in the 50 freestyle (22.78).