By Bob Balgemann


Members of Harlem’s boys swimming and diving team were a presence at the year-ending conference meet, when a blend of seniors, juniors and sophomores finished first, second or third in eight of the 13 events.

Sophomore Jeremy Mueller had a banner day, breaking six school records at the sophomore and varsity levels.

Harlem’s competitive cheerleading squad again qualified for state and wound up in 16th place. The Lady Huskies took the last qualifying spot in the sectional at Washington, near Peoria to advance.

In boys and girls basketball, both Harlem teams had a tough week, with each failing to win a game as the regular season came to a close.

In the NIC-10 swimming competition, Mueller won the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:45.03, bettering the previous standard of 1:48.24. He finished second in the 100-yard butterfly, timed at 53.40 seconds, a shade lower than the old mark of 55.60 seconds. And he was second in 100-yard freestyle, timed at 49.18 seconds, almost 2 seconds under the old record of 51.06 seconds.

Harlem doesn’t track school records in the 50-yard backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly events, nor in the 100-yard individual medley (IM). At the conference meet, Mueller added a first in the 50-yard butterfly, in 24.51 seconds.

But Harlem does track records in the 50-yard freestyle. Earlier this winter Mueller set a new record in that event with a time of 22.33 seconds, eclipsing the five-year-old standard held by graduate Jim Schuman.

For the season, he broke 13 school records, eight at the sophomore level and five in varsity competition. Right now the oldest individual record at Harlem is in the 100-yard breaststroke, with the time of 1:04.81 being set by Brad Shields in 1993.

At the NIC-10 meet no team places were kept. But unofficially, Hononegah competitors took nine of the total 39 places available in the 13 events, followed by Harlem with eight, Boylan Catholic with six, Freeport, Rockford East and Belvidere Co-op with six each and Rockford Guilford and Rockford Auburn with one each. Freeport stood out in diving, with its entries finishing 1-2 off the one-meter board.

Belvidere North was combined with its Boone County neighbor, Belvidere, for purposes of this meet; Rockford Jefferson did not participate.

Harlem had three seniors do a lot of the heavy lifting in their final meet as Huskies. Eli Barefield, school record-holder Kevin McMillan and Brandon Ngo each competed in four events.

Barefield was fourth in the 50-yard freestyle, with a time of 23.44 seconds; seventh in the 100-yard freestyle, in 52.08 seconds; eighth in the 50-yard backstroke, at 30.71 seconds; and ninth in the 100-yard breaststroke, in 1:11.66.

McMillan took silver three times by finishing second in the 50-yard backstroke, clocked at 26.05 seconds, the 200-yard IM in 57.69 seconds, and the 100-yard backstroke, at 57:00 seconds. His time in the backstroke was a shade slower than the record of 56.44 seconds he set earlier this season, during the Hononegah-Belvidere double dual. Finally, at conference, he took sixth in the 50-yard freestyle, timed at 23.69 seconds.

Ngo had a bronze-medal effort in the 50-yard breaststroke by finishing third with a time of 31.54 seconds. He also came in eighth in the 100-yard breaststroke, timed at 1:10.62, and 12th in both the 200-yard IM, at 2:26, and the 100-yard IM, in 1:03.61.   

Five juniors and sophomores who regularly saw action during the regular season again were contributors in their specialties.

Junior Wyatt Berry and sophomore Noah Hernandez each participated in three events during this postseason tournament.

Berry finished 13th in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 37.02 seconds; and he was 16th in both the 200-yard IM (2:48.16) and the 500-yard freestyle (6:52.87). Hernandez came in 10th in the 100-yard butterfly (1:03.86); 11th in the 50-yard butterfly (28.48 seconds); and 12th in the 200-yard freestyle (2:03.48).

Sophomore John Cox took 12th in the 500-yard freestyle, clocked at 6:28.69, while another sophomore, Xzavier Haight, was 16th in the 100-yard breaststroke, in 1:19.35.

In diving, junior Justyn Cimino finished eighth, scoring 119.05 points.


Harlem ran into eventual NIC-10 champion Rockford East (11-1) in the final game of the season and dropped a 59-50 decision.

The first quarter was all about defense with the Huskies taking an 8-6 edge. But the E-Rabs stormed back in the second period to prevail, 18-13, and continued the shift in momentum into a 19-10 third quarter advantage to lead, 43-31, going into the final eight minutes of play.

Harlem kept East at bay, holding the hosts to 37 percent shooting from the floor, but the E-Rabs had an edge in other important aspects of the game such as more offensive rebounds, fewer turnovers, more points in transition and more deflections.

The Huskies (10-4, 9-3), who finished in sole possession of third place in the NIC-10, shot 42 percent for the night. They led by Lathan Lewis with 21 points of 8-of-19 shooting. He was followed by Dominic Dawsey with 10 points, Trent Tucker with six and Alex Wilson with five.

Harlem’s girls squad took on eventual conference champion Hononegah (13-1) and lost, 58-36, to finish the season alone in possession of fifth place with an 8-5 record.

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