In what had been a “middle-of-the-pack” season through the first month and a half of competition for the OTHS boys swim team, the Panthers kicked up their effort a notch Jan. 16 when they traveled to Springfield and came away with a first-place tie with Sacred Heart Griffin in the annual Milestone Invitational.
Preceding their share of the invitational title, the OTHS squad finished eighth in the 15-team Champaign Centennial meet, but facing comparable competition in Springfield, Coach Kim Eddy’s squad out-scored Peoria Notre Dame, Chatham-Glenwood and Normal Community to earn a share of the invitational crown.
“The championship our boys earned was truly a team effort,” Eddy said. “Every member of the squad scored points toward our team total of 455.”
The Panthers earned the victory with just two first place finishes, but with a flurry of points in multiple races to keep pace with Griffin. O’Fallon earned victories in the medley relay with a quartet that included Max Gibbs, Yanni Guskey, Jake Howey and Michael Meyer. Meyer added the second blue for O’Fallon with his individual win in the 100 backstroke. Gibbs, Meyer, and Guskey were instrumental in the Panthers’ rise to the top of the pack with top three finishes in their individual races. The other key performance on the day was turned in by Adam Mueller, who eclipsed his own school record in the diving competition, setting a new record for six different dives.
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“The team has been improving consistently through the season, and their effort in the Milestone is evidence of that,” Eddy said. “We are getting solid performances from our veterans and improved times from our younger swimmers. EJ Wilder and Noah Lang have come on strong for us in recent weeks. They have been point contributors in individual events as well as in relays. Adam Mueller continues to make a significant difference for us in the diving competition.”
After their Milestone appearance, the OTHS squad faced off against Edwardsville on Jan. 19 and came out on the short end of a 105-88 score. First-place winners for O’Fallon were Gibbs in the 200 IM and Michael Murphy, who was a double winner, splashing to victory in both the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke. Other OTHS swimmers to finish in the top three in their respective races were Jake Howey, Patrick Murphy, Wilder, Ryan Hurst, Lang, Guskey and Stephen Monson.
“Despite the loss to Edwardsville, I am still very positive about our progress this season,” Eddy said. “I am looking forward to a good showing in the upcoming sectional meet. Max Gibbs and Michael Meyer are both within a few seconds of the state qualifying time in the 100 backstroke. Many other boys on the squad are shooting for medals in the sectional. They are all realistic goals if we are able to finish out the regular season strong.”