CHAMPAIGN — Champaign Central refused to settle for second place this time.
After four consecutive runner-up finishes in the Big 12 boys' swimming and diving meet, the Maroons would not be denied Saturday at Unit 4 Pool, earning their first conference title since 2006 when the likes of state champions Tyler McGill and Ross Moore swam for Central.
"I'm just real proud of the swimmers," Maroons coach Ben Trupin said. "We knew we had a chance, and our guys stepped up and showed what they're made of."
With four event wins and seven other finishes in the top three, Central scored 263 points to outdistance defending champion Normal West and Centennial for the team title. Runner-up Normal West finished with 241 points, one more than the third-place Chargers.
"We were talking before the meet about it's going to be really close," Trupin said. "Our team and other (Maroons) coaches did a really great job of putting together a specific (lineup) that could match the other teams."
Blake Lehmann was at the forefront of Central's success, winning two individual titles and swimming on a first-place 200-yard medley relay unit. The senior's biggest splash came in the 50 freestyle, where his winning time of 21.48 seconds broke a 22-year-old meet record. The previous mark of 21.57 by former Maroon Darryl Rodgers had stood since 1990.
Lehmann also won the 100 backstroke — by 3.47 seconds — and combined with Evan Miller, Joey Faullin and Garrett Barnard for the medley relay victory.
Faullin produced Central's other win, outdueling Normal West's Zach Krampien by 0.30 second in the 100 butterfly.
Trupin noted that his varsity swimmers had continued their standard training regimen leading into the meet.
"What was surprising was that for the last two weeks, we haven't backed off training," the Maroons coach said. "We've been busting their backs. We still had dryland doubles this week. We didn't go easy on them in practice (Friday). So it was impressive that Blake and Sam (Stewart, the 200 freestyle runner-up) and Joey were going as fast as they were and we haven't really tapered them yet."
Centennial, which in 2007 was the last previous area team to win the Big 12 meet, earned three event titles. Luis Tian captured the diving crown, and the Chargers won both freestyle relays.
Trent Reeve, Thomas Mueller, Blas Garcia-Canga and Gabe Omo-Osagie combined to place first in the 200 free relay. In the 400 free relay, the unit of Reeve, Heath Rogers, Garcia-Canga and Omo-Osagie edged runner-up Central by 0.43 second.
John Seyler was the top finisher for sixth-place Urbana, placing third in diving.