Korolev wins state 200 free title for Shorewood swimmers
Crown first for Greyhounds since Kipp in 2002
Always the steady one, always the reliable one.
A leader by example and a birthday boy as of Saturday to boot.
That was Shorewood junior swimmer Kirill Korolev's status this year for the Woodland Conference champion Greyhounds.
But state champion? Maybe not so much.
Until Friday that is, when Korolev stunned a deep and balanced field in the 200-yard freestyle to pull off a surprising WIAA State D2 championship at the Natatorium in Madison.
"It was funny, I really didn't have any major goals going in," Korolev said. "I was more of blank slate going in. I had built myself up and improved in almost every meet. The (WIAA) sectional meet was a bit of a disappointment, so I just decided to come in and give it my best shot."
Until he popped into the water and dropped 4.4 seconds off his previous season best, edging Elkhorn and Monona Grove swimmers with an eye-popping time of one minute, 44.41 seconds, Korolev wasn't sure where he stood for some time in the race.
"The kid in lane seven had a lead for most of the race," he said, "and it wasn't until the last 50 that I was finally able to make a move on him. I really couldn't see all that much that was going on, because I tend to breath only to one side, so I have a blind side."
"It was really quite exciting," Korolev continued. "I hit the wall and I saw the time. 1:44 was good but I couldn't really celebrate because I remembered that a kid in the first heat had also turned in a 1:44. I just couldn't recall his time. Then Rob (coach McCabe) came over, grabbed me and gave me a hug (laughs)."
Elkhorn junior Sam Johnson was second in 1:44.89.
Preparing for state
McCabe felt something good was going to happen beforehand.
"During the meet warm-ups I had keen sense that great things were going to occur throughout the meet," he said. "I couldn't slow them down during warm-ups and they were eager to start the next sets."
"This was a masterful race where Kirill let his competitors set the pace for a change," McCabe said. "Kirill's underwater kick in the second half was proof of genius and his last 50 split of the race was fastest in the field. … I think he was giving himself an early birthday present (laughs)."
Korolev's title is the first individual boys state title for the Greyhounds since Brandon Kipp won both the 200 individual medley and the 500 free in 2002.
"This is very nice," Korolev said. "Getting on the podium like that was very exciting."
And Korolev just didn't rest on his laurels, as he said that race "ignited a spark in him."
He proved that in his very next opportunity, with a spectacular 14-second drop in the 500 free, which was good for second with a 4:44.7 time. Only Brookfield Academy sophomore Kevin van Cleave (4:42.63) was faster.
Greyhounds take seventh
Korolev then helped the 200 free relay team of senior Philip Clausen, freshman Michael Perry, and junior Suhith Bayana drop more than 1.5 seconds in taking ninth in a season best of 1:31.25.
Korolev finished off his night by anchoring the 400 free relay team that included Perry, Clausen, and senior Carlo DeSando to close to a three-second season best and a seventh-place finish of 3:22.17.
Korolev's 100 split was 48.08.
Those efforts helped the Greyhounds to an impressive seventh-place showing in the team standings with 126 points as Monona Grove claimed the team title with 258.
Perry also arrived in a good frame of mind for Friday's event, as he dropped over two seconds from his previous best effort in the 100 butterfly to earn second in 52.09. He was just .3 of a second behind Milton senior Brandon Benson (51.79)
Other places for the Greyhounds included the following: 200 medley relay - sophomore Devon Brusnahan, DeSando, Clausen and Bayana, 10th (two-plus second season best 1:44.44). 200 individual medley - Perry, 10th (2:04.22). 100 butterfly - Clausen, 15th (57.11). 500 free - freshman Alex Borut, eighth (PB 5:03.19).
McCabe was ecstatic.
"Friday's state meet was a near perfect happening," he said. "All the swimmers and relay teams improved their seed times, improved their seeds or held their position in the seedings. We had 100 percent season best relay splits as well. All the Greyhounds had an awesome day."
"For a meet that started with a ball of fire finished with a flash lightning," McCabe continued, "I am incredibly proud of these guys and how they swam all season long, but immensely elated with final three weeks of the season. Captains Philip Clausen and Ilya Litvin and senior Carlo DeSando did a tremendous job of motivating and keeping the team together."
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