Evanston Hall of Fame swim coach Dobbie Burton once offered to jump into the pool and swim against New Trier’s head coach to break a tie between the two rivals.
That was back in the 1950s when the two schools took turns winning Illinois High School Association state championships and the rivalry reached a fever pitch.
Alums from both programs saw for themselves Friday night at the Burton Aquatic Center that the heat has been dialed down since then, even though nothing is sweeter for either program than a win over the other.
The Trevians continued their dominance in the 100th anniversary showdown in a rivalry that dates back to 1918, outscoring the host Wildkits 106-80 for their 14th straight win in head-to-head competition between the two programs.
New Trier leads the head-to-head dual meet series with 63 wins to 37 for Evanston (the two teams tied in 2001). The Trevians, according to research compiled a few years ago by a now defunct website, CSLinsider.com, have won more dual meets than any high school program in the country, so their edge over the Wildkits should come as no real surprise.
But what did current ETHS head coach Kevin Auger — whose teams haven’t won in the rivalry since 2005 — like most about Friday’s competition?
The fact that it brought out the best in both schools.
“If we were up against the same New Trier that swam last week, we’d have won tonight,” Auger explained. “But tonight I can guarantee you that they had season bests across the board and pretty much, so did we. There are no shenanigans between us. When you make each other better, that’s what makes it a healthy rivalry.
“I don’t think rivalries have to be mean-spirited, I really think they should be born of mutual respect, and I think that’s what we have on both sides. They bring their best, we’ll bring our best, and we’ll see who wins. That’s the way it should be.”
Auger, who took over the ETHS program in 1997, scored wins over the Trevians in 1999 and again in 2005 but shifted the focus slightly once he was the man in charge.
“When I first arrived here, it seemed like winning against them was the only thing that really mattered,” he said. “I couldn’t understand that, because we hadn’t qualified anyone for State in the 2 or 3 years before that, and New Trier was down a little, too.
“The way I look at it is as we climbed the state ladder (with top 10 finishes), they climbed with us. There’s never been any animosity between us and to me, setting our focus on beating them didn’t seem like a fruitful goal. When we changed our focus, it was if we can’t beat them, let’s beat everyone else. And I much prefer that they beat us in a dual meet — and we’re in the top 10 at State every year at the same time.”
Evanston’s surge in the middle of Friday’s meet came after a series of gut-wrenching losses in the first four races. New Trier won all 4 by a combined 1.2 seconds, prompting Auger to crack on Twitter about longer fingernails for his competitors.
As expected, the Wildkits dominated the diving as Trevor Nelson (269.95 points) beat out teammate Henry Goodman (262.60). Second place finishes by Rafael de Gouvea in the 100-yard butterfly (54.35) and Santiago Ramos-Torrescano in the 100 freestyle (50.51) preceded another close call, this one turning out in ETHS’ favor.
Junior Brendan Long touched out New Trier’s Topher Shepherd in the 500 freestyle with a winning time of 4:59.51, just ahead of Shepherd’s 4:59.62 effort. The Wildkits followed up that effort with a winning performance in the 200 freestyle relay, as Charlie Duffy and Charlie Herrick combined with Ramos-Torrescano and de Gouvea for a 1:29.79 clocking, second fastest for an Evanston team so far this season.
The Kits also counted runnerup finishes from Long in the 200 freestyle (1:50.46), Duffy in the 200 individual medley (2:03.93) and de Gouvea in the 50 freestyle (22.26).