Numbers aren’t quite what they were before COVID-19 for Homewood-Flossmoor Swim Club, but they’re getting there. If recent results are any indication, similar success should be on the horizon, as well.
“We were out of the pool for two years,” said Chris Baker, who’s coached H-F Swim for 18 years. “These guys are part of the rebuild process. I saw the talent but, I wasn’t sure if they were willing to work for it, and they have exceeded those expectations.”
The youth swim club advanced eight individuals –six boys and two girls– to the Illinois Swim Regional Championships July 14 to 16 at Riverside-Brookfield High School. They brought back several medals from the event, and 9-year-old Ron Krapf advanced to state.
H-F Swim is made up of mostly kids from Homewood and Flossmoor, but also the surrounding area. The team is fed by swim lessons run by Sabrina Barney. The group then, in turn, feeds Homewood-Flossmoor High School’s program.
Baker’s assistant coaches are Megan Bolling and Aden Kozel.
Krapf was part of the 10u 200-yard freestyle relay team that was one second shy of qualifying for state. William Morgan, Jax Love and Brandon Ojode are all 9 years old, making the feat even more remarkable because they did it against a field of 10-year-olds.
Morgan did it with an injury, too. He missed the previous week’s practice with a sprained arm.
“I think had he practiced that week, without the injury, he would’ve gone a little bit faster,” Baker said. “He did get out of shape just a little bit.”
They think the experience will only help when they come back next summer. Baker thinks they have a shot to “really make some noise.”
“I think we did pretty good. We got third,” Ojode said. “I think, with William’s (injury), that would’ve taken some time off. But with everything else, we did good. We did very good.”
It will be the first state meet for Krapf. Baker said he’s just looking to be exposed to the environment and become comfortable. Krapf has eyes on the multi-state Zone competition that would come next.
“I don’t really expect anything that’s ahead of me,” Krapf said. “My goal is to make Zone.”
Some of Krapf’s relay partners were a little less confident. Love wore a smile despite being two seconds off the qualifying mark for state in the back stroke, as well.
“I thought I wouldn’t even get any medals but I got like four, and I’m really happy with that,” Love said.
Ojode’s brother, Sean, was 10th in the backstroke. He said he thinks he could’ve done better.
“I think I was a little bit nervous because this was my first regionals,” Sean Ojode said. “I think I can do better next season.”
H-F High swimmer Lucy Bolling took first in a pair of distance races but didn’t make the qualifying time for state. She won both the 1,650-yard and 1,000-yard freestyle races.
She said she didn’t loosen up, have fun and “find her groove” until the third day of the regional. She won’t swim those distance races for the Vikings, though.
“It definitely makes me feel better going into the high school season with time drops in the 200 free,” Bolling said. “Definitely, having a pretty good weekend at regionals, I’m pretty excited for the high school season.”
Bolling actually gave lessons to some of the younger kids in the swim club, including Krapf and his relay teammates.
“I’m really proud of them,” she said. “It’s really great to see the team build back after COVID. We just lost so much time and so many great swimmers.”
Before the pandemic, it wasn’t unusual for H-F Swim to have over 80 kids in the pool with a half dozen individuals advancing to state. This season had about 60 swimmers but Baker believes it may not be long before this group of youngsters brings back that level of achievement.
“You really see the hard work they put in since last fall paying off this summer,” Baker said. “I’m excited for (next) fall and summer.”