February 25th, 2012

St. Xavier Swimming: 24 And Counting

Paul Najjar

CSN Staff Writer

St. Xavier Swimming: 24 And Counting
photo by Paul Najjar

Tigers lap the field; Cooper breaks 100 free record  

The St. Xavier Tigers captured their 24th consecutive state swimming championship utilizing their depth, two relay wins and two individual wins to more than double second place Covington Catholic in the final standings. Trinity finished in third place with 189 points.

Scoring 484.5 points in the 11 swimming events plus the diving competition, the St. X team racked up an average of 40.375 points per event on their way to another dominant performance at the Pannell Swim Shop Kentucky Swimming and Diving State Championships held at the Ralph Wright Natatorium on the campus of the University of Louisville.

The meet’s top two swimmers, Trinity sophomore Thomas Cooper and Covington Catholic junior Max Williamson, shattered three long-standing individual records in the 100 yard freestyle (Cooper) and the 200 yard IM and 500 yard freestyle (Williamson).

The young Tigers squad used their superior strength in numbers to place several swimmers in the individual championship heats. That type of depth allowed them to build their lead early, and extend it with every event.

“They were huge,” St. Xavier head coach Todd Larkin remarked about his younger swimmers. “Most importantly, it’s a team win. I like the youth we have on this team. We lost twenty-four seniors last year and the young guys stepped up, trained hard, worked hard and they deserve whatever accolades they get.”

Those accolades included freshman William Buese’s win in the 100 yard butterfly and senior Michael Scheid, Jr’s win in the 100 yard backstroke. Buese also took second place in the 200 yard freestyle, an event in which St. Xavier placed four swimmers in the top 9.

The most electric moments of the meet came Friday night in the preliminaries when Williamson and Cooper bested two state records. Williamson’s 1:48.88 in the 200 IM broke the old record set in 1999 by Brad Knueven. Cooper’s 0:44.71 in the 100 free broke the record that was set in 1997 by Nate Dusing.

“I’ve been wanting to get a best time in that (100 free) for a long time,” said the Trinity standout, Cooper. “I have to give credit to my coach at Triton swimming and to my mom. It was exciting to finally get a best time in that. I’d been stuck taking it out (the first 50 yards) in twenty-two seconds and I needed to break through that mark in the first fifty in order to get the record. That was the game plan: to get out under twenty two seconds and hold on in the second fifty.”

He did just as he planned in the preliminaries Friday evening, swimming sub 0:22 in the first 50 and holding on for his record time of 0:44.71.

Cooper’s effortless stroke and tremendous power were on display throughout the finals and included an eye-popping 0:20.12 split in his leg of the 200 yard freestyle relay. In the 400 yard free relay, Cooper recorded a 0:44.44 split as he led his team to a second place finish in that event. Trinity team moderator Wayne Kraus thought that finish was as strong as any by his team.

“Our guys were really happy to place ahead of St. X in the 400 free relay,” said Kraus. “We haven’t finished ahead of St. X in a relay at state in probably 20-plus years.”

Even Trinity’s rival coach Larkin lauded the efforts put forth by Cooper and Williamson.

“The guy’s meet has been really fast this year,” said Larkin. “Max (Williamson) and Thomas (Cooper) are outstanding swimmers. They’re fun to watch and very, very talented. Their fundamentals and techniques are excellent and that’s what it takes to be an elite swimmer.”

But the Tigers were far and away the best team and looking to move well ahead of the pack in the coming years.

Kraus commented: “They swam great and with their depth, I don’t see how anybody beats them for a long while. They are loaded and they’re going to be for years to come.”

Larkin not only understands the tradition of St. Xavier swimming, he is setting it on a direction of making it even stronger.

“With all of our guys, that tradition is so important to them,” Larkin stated. “It’s great to see the alumni come back and our current team subscribe to that tradition. It’s really special. The young kids are excited to be here and I have a lot of respect for the guys. We can only get better. The outlook for the program looks great and you can see the development process take hold and the program shift a bit. We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but I like the direction we’re heading.”


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