Darnall brings excitement to OPRF pool
Hinsdale Saturday 2/2/13 OakPark's Nikita Bondarenko during the 200 IM. | Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media
Friday Girls indoor track: at York Invitational, 5 p.m.
Girls indoor track: at York Invitational, 5 p.m.
Saturday Boys basketball: at Lyons, 7:30 p.m.
Boys basketball: at Lyons, 7:30 p.m.
Updated: March 8, 2013 6:53AM
HINSDALE — Oak Park-River Forest senior Alex Darnall is used to competing with extremely talented teammates.
He ran with current University of Wisconsin freshman standout Malachy Schrobilgen on the cross country team and earned the opportunity to be part of a record-setting relay this season on the swimming team.
Darnall won a swim-off with a teammate on Senior Night and then proceeded to team with senior standouts Kyle Patnode, Nikita Bondarenko and Mark Hallman to break the pool record in the 200-yard freestyle relay (1 minute, 28.12 seconds).
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” OPRF coach Clyde Lundgren said of Darnall’s excitement after winning the swim-off. “He touches (the wall) and we’re cheering and look back in the water and there is nobody there. We’re like where did he go? He’s running around deck yelling, ‘Yeah, yeah.’ That was just to get the shot, but he knew with Kyle, Nikita and Mark that this was his best chance to get his name on the board.”
Darnall teamed with juniors Chris Brandt, Lee Werner and James Kelly to place third in the 200 free relay (1:32.61) at the West Suburban Silver meet Saturday in Hinsdale.
But the real excitement came on Senior Night when the exuberant Darnall made his coaches remember why they do what they do.
“It was really cool,” Lundgren said. “Coach Christina (Smith) turned around and said, ‘This is why I coach.’ That’s exactly what I was thinking. There’s a lot of fulfillment in those moments. It doesn’t always have to be state titles, or top-six or top-12 finishes, but you can get gratifying moments out of something like that.
“He’s a neat kid. He’s real quiet, soft-spoken and kind of still waters run deep, but he’s a hard worker and when he swims, you can tell he puts his whole heart into it.”
The highlight of the conference meet for the Huskies, who placed third behind Hinsdale Central and Lyons, was the record-setting performance by Patnode.
Despite not even reaching his seed time, Patnode broke OPRF graduate Tim Barry’s 1998 conference record (52.20) by winning the 100 backstroke in 52.13 seconds.
“That kind of shows how hard he’s worked and what he’s built in his own swims to be able to kind of be off a bit perhaps and still get a conference record,” Lundgren said of Patnode, who placed eighth at state in the backstroke a year ago. “I just hope that translates into a top-six swim at the end of the season. That’s what we’ve been gunning for.”