February 12, 2018
As the Illinois State Finals loom, the Friars’ quiet but speedy junior from Glen Ellyn has his goggled sights set on a podium or two.
By Mark Vruno
If speed kills, as they say in the sports world, then Fenwick mid-distance swimmer Liam Hutchinson ’19 is a stopwatch slayer in the pool. With an All-State performance his sophomore season last year, Hutchinson placed eighth in Illinois in the 500-meter freestyle, with a time of 4:31:55, and ninth in the 200 free with a preliminary time of 1:40:21.
“He missed All-American [status] by a fraction,” points out his Fenwick coach, alumnus Luke McGuire ’90, who also swam for the Friars, adding that the cutoffs for the top 100 times were 1:39:71 for the 200m freestyle and 4:31:23 for the 500m free. “Liam was on the list then got bumped down.
“He’s crazy-fast,” McGuire says, “and is close to beating our team record of 1:39:09 in the 200 free. He also is flirting with a new school record in the 500 free, which is Fenwick Aquatics’ longest-standing record.” The 40-year-old time of 4:26:01 was posted by Robert Ramoska ’79, who went on to swim at the University of Alabama and later became a podiatrist.
Those “old,” elusive numbers on the record board inspire young Liam on a daily basis at practice. “I want to beat it [Ramoska’s time],” he admits, swimming it in 4:38:92 at the MCAC conference meet on Feb. 2nd, placing second in the race. He has other times in his sights as well: “I’d like to break the team records for the 200 and 100, too.,” but he may have to compete against freshman teammate Connor McCarthy, who swam 54:12 in the 100 and placed fourth in conference.
Hutchinson also has team goals: “We’re going to try to win Sectionals, and we want to get our relays back [in the pool] on Saturday,” he says, referring to the State Finals the last weekend in late February. The 200 medley relay team (senior Tommy Bartecki, junior Dan Lynch, freshman Connor McCarthy and Hutchinson) swam a season-best 1:39:46 and took first place among MCAC competition. The 200 free relay team of Lynch, sophomore Dan Bajda, Bartecki and Hutchinson also has a season-best time of 1:29:49, taking 2nd place.
Short- and long-term aspirations
Hutchinson made the Olympic trial cut this past summer in the 400m Freestyle and is garnering interest from unnamed college coaches, including at least one Big Ten school. USA Swimming invited him to attended the U.S. Swimming National Select Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs last October, and he may return there next summer in 2019. (The 2020 Summer Olympic Games are in Tokyo.) “That’s a really big deal,” Coach McGuire says proudly. But for now, the humble 17-year-old is focused on swimming crazy fast at Evanston Township High School on February 23rd & 24th.
The Hutchinson family resides in Glen Ellyn, and Liam also swims competitively with the Wheaton Swim Club. His older brother, Anton, graduated from Fenwick last year and is a freshman swimmer at Lawrence University in Neenah, WI; younger brother Todd is a rising frosh diver for the Friars who placed first in 1-meter in conference this year. “I’ve been swimming since I was about six years old,” says Liam, who also has had a lifelong love of soccer, which he played at Fenwick his first two years of high school. “I miss soccer, but I’m better at swimming,” he adds matter of factly. “I had a shorter training window when I was playing soccer.” The full-time focus has strengthened his performance in the water, he notes.
“Liam is humble. He’s a quiet kid and very coachable,” McGuire says of his star athlete. “He does whatever you ask him to do. He is competitive in a good sense, but not overbearing.”
Personally, it was a tough start to the season for Hutchinson: Around the holidays, his mother’s brother passed away in Denmark, then his dad’s father in England died shortly thereafter. Liam took some time away from the pool as he attended to family matters.
But the human torpedo returned in the new year with laser-sharp vision, gliding through the water again with crazy-fast velocity. “I want to be up on that podium, twice,” he asserts. So watch out, North Shore: Here comes Hutch and his speedy teammates Bajda, Bartecki, Lynch and McCarthy!