Quinn Tucker’s move to the Evanston swim program from Colorado has really been a positive experience for the junior distance ace.
Well, except for those morning workouts. That’s taken some getting used to for a club swimmer making the transition to two-a-day practices at the ETHS pool.
Tucker turned in a pair of season bests and also contributed to Evanston’s only win Saturday at the 60th annual Trevian Relays at New Trier. In a meet format that determines points by combining the times of two swimmers per individual event per school, the Wildkits tallied 116.5 points and earned a third place finish in the 12-team field.
Host New Trier repeated as champion with 162.5 points, followed in order by Neuqua Valley (118.5), Evanston, Lake Forest (110) and Barrington (106) in the top five.
Tucker’s shift from an environment in Colorado where the emphasis is on club competition to the intensity surrounding the high school scene in Illinois has seen the junior consistently drop time in both the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle races.
Saturday, he placed fourth in the 500 freestyle in 4 minutes, 53.78 seconds after earning 7th in the 200 freestyle and winning his heat in 1:48.54. Both times were season bests for Tucker, who also made the rare move of dropping down from his 500 race to a leg in the junior varsity 200 freestyle relay with only about a 3-minute break in between races.
He turned in Evanston’s second fastest split in that race and teamed up with Adrian Lafont-Mueller, Evan Ziolkowski and Axel Lafont-Mueller for a winning time of 1:31.12.
“I actually did that one time when I was a freshman, too,” said Tucker regarding his 500-50 (leg) double. “It’s no big deal when you’re a distance guy.
“I’ve been swimming competitively since I was 10 years old, but it’s a lot different swimming in Colorado than it is here. It’s a lot less competitive as a whole in Colorado. The top 8 guys in an event might be just as fast, but Illinois has way more fast swimmers.”
Tucker lived in Highlands Ranch, south of Denver, and attended high school at Thunder Ridge High School. But the boys high school squad was a combined effort from four different schools and Tucker said that “the high school coach there didn’t have the time or the space to train us more than once or twice a week. The rest of the time was club practice. Most of the time I didn’t train with my high school teammates.
“Everyone here takes swimming so seriously. And that’s really been great for me, because it’s really cool to be a part of this team and a part of the Evanston tradition. Although I really could do without those A.M. practices . . .”
Tucker qualified for state in Colorado in four events as both a freshman and a sophomore and so far ETHS head coach Kevin Auger has been impressed by the way the junior has embraced the challenge of tougher competition on a daily basis.
“This is a whole new experience for Quinn, because Colorado is not the competitive state that Illinois is,” Auger said. “Those two races today had to be his best in-season times and he’s really starting to make a breakthrough in the 500. Every time he swims that race he’s a little better at something.
“That 200 might have been his best swim of the day, too. I know he’s never had to worry about qualifying for State before (in Colorado swimmers can qualify by posting fast enough in-season times instead of advancing through sectional qualifying), but right now he’s going to have to fight for a spot in the 200 because Ryan Knohl and Adrian (Lafont-Mueller) own those two spots for us right now.”
Besides the winning JV relay, Knohl and Tucker combined for Evanston’s best showing with a 3-4 finish in the 500 freestyle, with Knohl earning third after leading much of the race, with a season best 4:51.20 clocking. New Trier’s Max Robertson won that race in 4:49.36 and Barrington sophomore Mitchell Gavars caught and passed Knohl in the last 10 yards to snatch runnerup honors in 4:50.83.
Knohl switched to the 200 individual medley for this invite and contributed a 3rd in 2:00.93, another season best effort for the senior. He also combined with Christian Stankovic, Liam O’Connor and Jake Girard for 3rd in the varsity 400 freestyle relay in 3:18.33.
Also scoring top 6 individual finishes for the Wildkits were Stankovic, 5th in the 100 freestyle in in 49.44; Girard, 5th in the 200 IM in 2:03.12; and Zach Grossman-Torres, 6th in the 100 backstroke in 55.98.
Evanston tied for 5th in the varsity 200 medley relay and placed 4th in the JV 400 freestyle relay.
“We looked a little tired, but I’m happy with most of our swims,” Auger said. “I thought our placing and our racing was pretty good as a whole.”