Charleston coach Brian Bower offers advice to Josh Hoh (foreground, far right) and teammate William Cope, who is training for an AAU state meet, at EIU’s pool in Lantz.

By Race Archibald

One year ago, Josh Hoh finished sixth in the Champaign Centennial sectional in the 100 freestyle.

Today, he is a sectional champion and preparing to compete in the IHSA Swimming & Diving State Finals this Friday at Evanston Township High School in Evanston.

In order to qualify for the state meet, a swimmer can either win a sectional meet or match the qualifying time set by the IHSA. Hoh’s time would not have met the time standard, but since he won the event, he will extend his swimming career for another week.

Hoh won the 100 freestyle last week in Champaign, touching the wall with a time of 48.94 seconds, which was also a team record.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Hoh said. “I did a cool-down 50 after it and I couldn’t stop smiling.”

Hoh will be the first Charleston swimmer to compete at the state meet since 1977, when Steve Boone qualified in the 100 breaststroke.

“He’s been wanting to go to state the past two years,” Charleston coach Brian Bower said. “He was crazy. I was in disbelief when he finished.”

Hoh was seeded first by a slim margin going into sectionals, which applied a little pressure to him.

“Austin Heubner was at a 50.4, and I was at a 50.2. It was anybody’s race at that point,” Hoh said. “He swam the 200 freestyle before, and I watched him dog it. I was really nervous.”

Huebner, whom Hoh says he has swam with before, finished fourth in 50.38 seconds.

During the championship season, swimmers will taper themselves down for the final meet of their season. For many, this meet is their sectional meet, and for those on the edge of making state, it can be challenging to compete at a high level for another week.

“I’ll perfect my flip turns this week, “Hoh said.” In my previous races, I had some bad turns, I need to get those down.”