State Swimming/Diving: Marian’s Cifelli wins diving crown
By Tim Tierney For Sun-Times Media March 1, 2014 10:12PM
Stagg's Lucas Smiarowski swims in the 200-yard individual medley consolation final during the boys' swimming state finals hosted at Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Ill. on March 1, 2014. Jon Durr/For Sun-TImes Media
Updated: April 3, 2014 7:03AM
Joey Cifelli has told the story before of making the trip to Illinois-Chicago six days a week to practice because Marian Catholic doesn’t have a swimming team.
What Cifelli does have after all those long hours is a state championship.
The Marian Catholic diver, state runner-up last year as a sophomore, wowed the crowd and the coaches again Saturday at Evanston with three more dives and kept his hold on the top spot from Friday’s prelims and semifinals.
Cifelli finished with 474.05 points, easily outscoring the next three divers who finished in the 430s. Christian Life’s Michael Klemm was runner-up (438.40), Deerfield’s Sean Scarry was third (432.00) and Loyola’s Christopher Canning was fourth (430.05).
“I spent a lot of time working the basics this year instead of just throwing the hard dives,’’ Cifelli said. “I got a lot more consistent, I got a lot more confident in myself. I took all the negativity out of it. That’s one thing I really pride myself on now.’’
And he did it without a lot of rest.
“There was a lot of pressure on this meet and I tried to not focus on it, but when it’s a state championship, it’s hard not to,’’ Cifelli said. “Going into Friday, I didn’t sleep. I slept maybe four or five hours. I was too focused on wanting to win.’’
Cifelli was on the board getting ready to do his last dive, a front 3½-somersault and tuck when one high school coach said to another: “Watch this.’’
“That was one of my newest dives. I don’t think anybody ever competed that here at the state meet,’’ Cifelli said. “It’s pretty exciting. I definitely want to come back next year with some harder dives.’’
Cifelli used to take the train from the south suburbs every day to practice until he was old enough to drive himself to UIC.
“I give a lot up,’’ Cifelli said. “Sometimes I have to stay home during the weekend. I don’t go out with my friends.’’
Cifelli is the first state diving champion from the Southland since Homewood-Flossmoor’s Kevin Duda and Jeff Adams won back-to-back diving titles in 1996 and ’97.
Andrew All-Stater Kyle Fitzgerald ended a strong senior season with sixth-place finishes in the 200 freestyle (1:42.20) and the 100 freestyle (46.67).
“I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish,’’ Fitzgerald said. “Conference champ, sectional champ, state medalist. And I helped my teammates get a state medal as well. It was great.’’
Andrew’s 400 freestyle relay finished 10th with Fitzgerald, Danny Cavato, Michael Tamulonis and Zach Rentner (3:11.23).
Stagg junior Zack Amendola placed ninth in the 100 butterfly (51.19) and 12th in the 100 backstroke (52.40). He also swam on Stagg’s 11th-place 400 relay with Harlan Long, Evan Johnson and Lucas Smiarowski.
Brother Rice senior Mitch Strahlman earned All-State status in his two events for the second year in a row. Strahlman was 11th in the 200 individual medley (1:55.30) and 12th in the 500 freestyle (4:39.79).
Lincoln-Way East sophomore Patrick Hackett took ninth place in the 500 freestyle (4:36.85).
Brother Rice sophomore James Ryan was 10th in the 100 breaststroke (59.38).