Winnetka, Sports

Musick stars as New Trier gets back to state-trophy territory; Obochi, Highland Park post historic performances for program

Every swimmer has a strategy, but before his 100-yard butterfly race in the state championships, New Trier junior Aidan Musick tweaked his.

“He was aggressive at the front of the race,” Trevians coach Josh Runkle said. “He said before (the race), “I’m going to push this first 50 and see what happens.'”

Good call.

Musick darted out to an early lead and held on to win the state title with a swim of 47.75 seconds to highlight New Trier’s second-place team finish Saturday, Feb. 25, at FMC Natatorium in Westmont.

It was the first state title for Musick, who finished ninth in the event a year ago.

“This one I just sent it, picked up my tempo,” he said. “And the last 25 (yards) I just put my head down and raced, and it worked out. … It feels super great.”

New Trier’s runnerup result marked the Trevians’ return to trophy territory after a three-season drought: fifth place in 2022, 10th place in 2020 and sixth place in 2019 (no state meet in 2021). Prior to that, New Trier collected 12 state trophies (top 3), including eight championships, between 2004 and 2018.

Trevians junior Charlie Bufton races to a fourth-place finish in the 200-yard individual medley.

“This was a fun weekend,” Runkle said. “I watched the (New Trier) girls in the fall when they won it and was amazed. I felt like it was a total team effort. I think this was very much the same. All the kids stepped up.”

Led by Musick, who also placed third in the 200 free, New Trier collected medals in seven events, including six top-six finishes. Junior Charlie Bufton placed fourth in the 200 individual medley, senior Max Lestina placed sixth in the 50 free, senior Wyatt Wellehan was fifth in the diving competition (476.5 points), Stuart Timmerman and Bufton went 10-12 in the 100 breaststroke, and the Trevians were top 4 in all three relays: fourth in 200 medley (Bufton, Timmerman, Drennan Deveraj, Lestina), third in 200 free (Musick, Brady Baxter, Augustus Noreuil, Lestina) and second in 400 free (Graham Wilson, Lestina, George Angelov, Musick).

The Trevians impressive Saturday was for all intents and purposes a race to second place, as juggernaut Hinsdale Central (253 points) dominated the competition with more than 100 points more than New Trier (135).

The Red Devils won five event and set state records in all three relays: 1:29.4 in 200 medley, 1:21.26 in 200 free relay and 2:59.61 in 400 free relay. Central broke New Trier records in two of those races: the medley and 400 free relays.

“I’m not sure they aren’t the best team to come out,” Runkle said of Hinsdale Central. “They set three relay records in one shot. It was tough to see those (New Trier records) fall, but that’s what records are for. They are meant to be broken. It gives everyone something to chase.”

Stevenson (122.5), Highland Park (89) and Maine South (68) rounded out the top five.

State champ Obochi leads Giants to best team finish since 1959

Kevin Obochi stands atop the podium after his state-championship swim in the 50-yard freestyle.

Highland Park finished one place out of trophy contention, but the Giants had more than enough to celebrate Saturday in Westmont.

The Giants recorded five top-five finishes, and senior Kevin Obochi became the first Highland Park state champion in 37 years (Bill Merkle, 100 back in 1986) with his victory in the 50 free (20.34 seconds).

Giants coach Tim Sirois said Obochi, who came into the finals seeded second in the 50 free, thrives in high-leverage swims and “exploded off the wall” on the turn to surge into the lead in the final 25 yards.

“He’s always been a big pressure-situation kid,” Sirois said. “He enjoys it. It’s hard to tell — he has a good poker face — but he has always stepped up in big situations.”

Obochi picked up three other medals, claiming third in the 100 fly and leading off for the second-place 200 free relay (Obochi, Ilya Rivkin, David Daniels, Danny Castle) and fifth-place 400 free relay (Obochi, Aron Fridman, Daniels, Castle).

Highland Park’s Noam Kulbak in the diving competition, in which he took second.

Aside from medaling in both relays, junior Danny Castle added a 12th-place finish in the 50 free, and diver Noam Kulbak was runnerup in the diving competition and Alex Bradshaw was 12th.

“I was hoping to come in first, but I am happy with second,” Kulbak said. “I love facing this competition, against really good guys.”

He added, “I set up all my hardest dives (for Saturday), so if I hit them it will pay off significantly. I hit two of them.”

The Giants’ result was their best team finish in more than 60 years (4th place in 1959) — not a bad way to end a storied career like Sirois’.

Following more than 20 years coaching and teaching, Sirois is retiring from Highland Park High School after this school year.

Danny Castle, of Highland Park, takes off in the 50 free.

“I could not have asked for a better group for my last year coaching,” he said. “There has not been one issue. They take care of each other … medals and everything else aside. It’s just been the best.

“It’s been a very emotional year for me. I think about what life’s going to be like without what is the most special part of my day, which is being on the pool deck.”

Loyola Academy advanced a handful of entries to the state finals. Sophomore Gus Koh scored in the finals by placing 11th in the 100 backstroke. Koh was also part of the 11th place 200 medley relay, which also featured Max Rice, Velizar Filipov and Carter Tiv.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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