Boys Swimming: Mitch Strahlman sets the pace for Brother Rice
By Tim Tierney For Sun-Times Media February 2, 2014 4:42PM
Mitch Strahlman, of Brother Rice | Tim Tierney/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 4, 2014 6:12AM
Mitch Strahlman certainly took to the water at an early age.
“I was in the water before I could walk,’’ he said. “I’ve always loved the water.’’
Strahlman went from making a splash in a moms and tots class at Ridge Park in Beverly to achieving All-State status a year ago as a junior at Brother Rice.
Strahlman qualified for the state meet as a freshman and sophomore, but last year was the first time he made the finals. He finished 10th in the 200-yard individual medley and 12th in the 500 freestyle at the meet dominated by north and west suburban teams.
“I got there last year, but that doesn’t mean anything,’’ Strahlman said. “Anything can happen. I could get 13th or 14th. But I like my chances. I’ve put in a lot of work.’’
The self-proclaimed ‘’water rat’’ has put in the work since childhood.
“When I wasn’t playing baseball, my mom said, ‘You need to do something to stay in shape,’ ’’ Strahlman said. “So I started swimming at Ridge Country Club. I was about 7 or 8.
“I’ve always had a deep love for the sport. I’m a hard-working person in general. I realized in seventh or eighth grade it was something I needed to stick with.’’
Strahlman stopped playing organized baseball before high school. He was on the water polo team his first two years at Brother Rice before deciding to focus on swimming.
Seeing a personal best after touching the wall is what made him “love swimming so much’’ through the years.
“The satisfaction you get from that best time was satisfaction greater than anything I achieved in any other sport,’’ Strahlman said. “After all the hard work, there’s no better feeling.’’
At the 2013 state finals, the consistent Strahlman swam the IM in 1 minute, 55.04 seconds and the 500 free in 4:40.38, nearly identical times to the sectional meet.
Teammate James Ryan qualified for state last year as a freshman in the breaststroke, a welcome addition for Strahlman.
“When I went freshman and sophomore year, I was the only kid from Rice,’’ Strahlman said. “It was kind of hard seeing guys with teammates, having sort of a brotherhood. Having James to talk to really helped.’’
This year, Brother Rice hopes to qualify its medley relay from the Feb. 22 Sandburg Sectional. Strahlman likely will be joined by two sophomores — Ryan and Solomon Gienosky — and freshman Aaron Payne.
“If we take a relay down and have five or more guys there, we’re all going to do even better,’’ Strahlman said.
Strahlman, Dan Whalen, Brian Brown and Dan Birmingham have provided the senior leadership this season. Strahlman calls sophomore Luke Healy “probably the hardest-working kid I know.’’
Brother Rice coach Tony Cichowicz, a 1990 Rice graduate who swam in high school, said Strahlman’s work ethic spread to his teammates.
“He influences the younger guys a lot because he’s so good, he’s so strong,’’ Cichowicz said. “He’s grown by leaps and bounds. These guys all see it. They all want to be as fast as him.’’