DeKalb-Sycamore swimmers Jacob Bjork and Ryan Schultz were playfully competitive all season, grinding through workouts next to each other, teasing one another when one lagged behind.
But when Bjork, a freshman, finished ahead of Schultz, the Barbs’ only returning state qualifier, for the first time all season in the 100-yard breaststroke in the St. Charles East Sectional last weekend, all the veteran could do was congratulate his teammate.
“He was really supportive,” said Bjork, who qualified for this weekend’s swimming and diving state meet at New Trier in Winnetka along with Schultz, by besting the state qualifying time. “I’ve been looking up to him ever since I started swimming here, so it’s just a really big accomplishment to beat somebody like him.”
Schultz knew he could have swam better. As he walked back to the DeKalb camp at the opposite end of the pool, he had a frustrated look on his face because he just couldn’t time his turns quite right.
But all season, Bjork and Schultz worked toward a common goal. On Saturday, Schultz knew the pair had achieved part of that goal, to make it to the state meet, even if he knows he’ll have to cut his time by more than a second to accomplish his second goal – making it to finals.
“[Bjork] surprised me that he came in ahead of me today. It was definitely good to get him into state,” Schultz said Saturday. “It’s going to be great. That’ll be fun. We can motivate each other so that’ll be fun.”
After finishing 39th in the event last year, Schultz has his eyes on a top-12 finish this weekend. He’ll have to drop his time significantly, but he knows that with well-timed turns and a full taper, that’s possible.
“I can definitely go faster at state,” Schultz said. “I can definitely drop when I’m fully tapered. I think I can. [At sectionals], I definitely think I could have gone faster.”
The pair are seeded 40th and 42nd for today’s preliminary race, so they most likely will line up in the same heat once again.
Schultz and Bjork won’t be alone when they head to Winnetka today. Schultz also qualified in the 200 medley relay, along with freshman Daniel Hein, senior Marc Dubrick and sophomore Dylan Powers
Hein will be a championship contender in the 100 butterfly, where he’s seeded third, and the 100 backstroke, where he’s seeded 12th.
After qualifying along with only one teammate, senior Kei Ishimaru, last year, Schultz hopes the large DeKalb-Sycamore contingent can feed off of each other.
“Last year it was just me and Kei, so it was a little bit lonely,” Schultz said. “This is going to be a good year, I can feel it.”