With 12 of their 16 swimmers returning from last winter’s campaign, the OTHS boys’ swim team opened their season recently with two trips to Peoria for multi-team tournaments and a dual meet face-off against the Edwardsville Tigers. All three competitions ended with mixed results, although OTHS coach Kimberely Eddy is anticipating a solid season from her veteran crew.
“After finishing third in the IHSA sectional last year with many returning swimmers, we are looking forward to a good year,” Eddy said. “Max Gibbs, Michael Meyer and Jake Howey were big scorers for us and should give us a solid nucleus on which to build. We are looking for at least the same level of success we had last year.”
After three dips in the pool so far, the OTHS squad will have their work cut out for them as their 2016-17 season unfolds, primarily facing a talented collection of teams from central Illinois. Their first dive into the pool in an 11-team meet hosted by Peoria Notre Dame ended with the Panthers securing a seventh-place finish.
“We sort of faced a double whammy in our season-opener with five of our swimmers out due to ACT testing on the same day, as well as extraordinarily fast times for this early in the year,” explained Eddy. “In four events, the winners finished their races under state-qualifying times.”
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Michael Meyer secured the top spot for O’Fallon, finishing fourth in the 100-meter backstroke.
Returning closer to home for their next competition, the Panthers squared off against Edwardsville. Despite improving times, the OTHS squad was no match for the Tigers. O’Fallon equaled their output from Peoria but could not challenge Edwardsville’s overall team depth. Top swimmers versus their Southwestern Conference adversaries included second place finishes by Max Gibbs (200 IM), Jake Howey (50 freestyle), Michael Meyer (100 backstroke), Yanni Guskey (100 breaststroke) and the 200 freestyle relay team.
Looking for more positive results, the Panthers returned to Peoria for another multi-team competition last Saturday, Dec. 17. This time Richwoods was the host school for the swimming showdown. The OTHS squad returned with two first-place medals. The two winning efforts were turned in by the medley relay team composed of Michael Meyer, Max Gibbs, Jake Howey and Patrick Murphy and an individual title earned by Adam Mueller in diving.
The OTHS swimmers will face Edwardsville again in a dual match on Dec. 29 with designs on a more competitive showing.
“We should be able to improve our relative strength in comparison to the other schools on our schedule as the season progresses,” Eddy said. “We have a group that is dedicated to working hard, and, as our times improve, I expect our team to become more of a threat in major meets.”