A year ago, Carson Faley was just a wide-eyed Dixon freshman in awe of the atmosphere of the IHSA State Swimming Meet.
But after just being happy to get there last February, he’s got bigger things on his mind this time around.
Faley will swim in the 200 and 500 freestyle races in today’s preliminaries, and will be joined at Evanston Township High School by five Sterling swimmers in eight other races.
The Dixon sophomore, swimming for the Byron co-op, feels much more at ease as he ponders this weekend’s trip to the
“I definitely feel I’ll be better prepared this year,” he said. “Last year I was so nervous in my first trip there, and I didn’t know if I’d do good. Now I’m used to it because I’ve experienced it before, so I can zone out all the people and the extra stuff and swim well.”
All season, Faley has been working hard to qualify for state in two events, and after reaching that goal to advance to the sport’s biggest stage in both races, serenity set in for Faley during practice this week.
“The pressure’s off,” he said. “It’s so much easier to prepare myself and not be so stressed and nervous, because I’ve already made it to state.”
Last year, Faley had the 40th time out of 41 state qualifiers in the 500 free, and moved up two spots by improving his seed time of 4:53.78 by more than 2 seconds with a swim of 4:51.52.
Last weekend at the Byron Sectional, he swam a 4:46.48 in the 500 free, 31st among 34 state qualifiers in the race. He also finished the 200 free in 1:44.42, leaving him 32nd among the 36 qualifiers in that event.
Faley’s not resting on his laurels in either race, even after the elation that came with qualifying in both of them.
“In my 200, I was very happy with that; my 500, I’d definitely like to drop it down a couple more seconds, and I think I can,” Faley said. “With another week of resting, I think that’s doable – especially if I have people around me pushing me, I definitely feel like it’s possible to drop time in both races.”
Sterling also has some repeat state qualifiers, as senior Jack Wike, junior Calvin Sandefer, and sophomores Reiley Austin and Michael Garland are making the trek back to the suburbs for the second straight season. They will be joined by freshman Skylar Drolema.
Wike, who placed 13th in the state prelims of both the 200 IM and 100 freestyle last year to miss the finals cut in both races by one spot, is back in the 200 IM and will also swim in the 100 backstroke. His sectional times have him 11th in a field of 40 IM swimmers, and 16th among 39 backstrokers.
“My swims [at sectionals] both felt pretty good,” Wike said last weekend, “and I feel like I have more in the tank for state. I think things are looking good.”
Sandefer will compete in the 50 free (5th out of 52) and the 100 free (12th out of 39) – the same events as last season – and also join Wike in the 200 medley relay (13th out of 36) and 400 free relay (30th out of 34). Austin will also race in both relays, was well as the 100 butterfly (40th out of 41), which he swam at state last season along with the 100 backstroke.
Drolema will swim in the 200 medley relay and the 100 breaststroke (38th out of 40), and Garland – who swam in the 200 medlay relay last season – will swim a leg in the 400 free relay this time around.
“I think this weekend will be amazing,” Sandefer said. “I think we all have a ton left to give, and we’re ready to go again for state.”
As strong as all of this year’s state qualifiers have been all season long, none of them are ready for it to be over. But they’re all ready to make their final meet count – and do so among the best in Illinois.
“It’s still kind of hard to wrap my head around it. It’s been such a quick season; it doesn’t seem like it should be over yet, and state’s just kind of come out of nowhere,” Faley said. “But I’ll be ready to hopefully have my best swims of the season.”
Local state qualifiers
Reiley Austin, Sterling – 100 butterfly, 200 medley relay, 400 freestyle relay
Skylar Drolema, Sterling – 100 breaststroke, 200 medley relay
Carson Faley, Byron co-op – 200 free, 500 free
Michael Garland, Sterling – 400 free relay
Calvin Sandefer, Sterling – 50 free, 100 free, 200 medley relay, 400 free relay
James Wike, Sterling – 200 IM, 100 backstroke, 200 medley relay, 400 free relay