March 1st, 2014

St. X swimmers win 26th state title in row

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Conor Revell

Managing Editor

St. X swimmers win 26th state title in row
The Tigers celebrate the school's 50th state swimming title / photo by Conor Revell

St. Xavier won the KHSAA Boys’ Swimming and Diving State Championships for the 26th consecutive year Saturday at the University of Louisville’s Natatorium.

It was the school’s 50th state crown, but this one was different. Many expected Covington Catholic to end the streak because the Tigers’ 200-yard freestyle relay team was disqualified in the regional two weeks ago.

Not having a foursome in that event Saturday potentially cost St. X 40 points, but it still managed to finish with 361 points to runner-up CovCath’s 328.5.

“I don’t think we ever panicked — we didn’t ever worry,” St. X head coach Todd Larkin said. “We’ve got a veteran team with a lot of leadership. You know, sometimes teams need to be pressured. We needed this. It’s not always a bad thing to have your backs against the wall. It brought the best out of our team. The seniors were 54-0 coming in, and you lean on those guys and they put it in their hand.”

Collegiate helped St. X’s cause by winning the 200 free relay as CovCath ended up second.

“This state championship feels a lot different,” St. X senior Jacob Smith said. “We had to work a lot harder this year knowing that it wasn’t going to be a blowout. We didn’t want to be known as the senior class that broke the streak. It was a big relief as much as joy when we ended up winning.”

Yet, the Tigers persevered with Smith, Heyward Harrison and Noah Johnston bringing home individual state titles.

“I think all of our state championships are special,” Larkin said. “One of the things we did was that we always get the boys to concentrate on the present. The teams that won 10 years ago, last year, 20 years ago can’t help them today. I think this is special because of what these guys accomplished. They stepped up when they needed to step up. They truly deserve to be called champions.”

Harrison won the 200 individual medley final in 1:51.49, edging second-place Chase Vennefron of CovCath, who clocked 1:52.68. Harrison also placed third in 100 backstroke.

He said winning this state championship was much more difficult for the Tigers.

“The other two were expected,” Harrison added. “I don’t think we thought much of it because we were expected to do so. This time we really pulled through and brought it home.”

Smith won the 100 butterfly in 50.17, beating second-place Mac Slattery of Bowling Green (50.55).

“I try to come out in my races and swim as fast as I can,” Smith said. “That kind of sets the tone, and then I try to finish strong.”

Johnston, seeded third in the 500 freestyle, surprised the crowd with a stunning victory. The senior touched the wall in 4:30.65, nearly two seconds ahead of second-place Ethan Curl of Tates Creek (4:32.91).

“I knew that we’d have to do our best to win, but I didn’t feel like an underdog,” Johnston said. “I knew I could do well, and I knew I could swim fast.”

St. X’s 200 medley relay team (Harrison, Richard Carrico, Jacob Smith and Kyle Brutscher) placed second in 1:34.70 behind CovCath’s foursome that finished in 1:33.71.

Harrison, Johnston, Smith and Clayton Forde helped the Tigers place second behind Collegiate in the 400 freestyle relay.

“All of them stepped up, it was a team effort,” Larkin said. “I think all of our swimmers have the capabilities to win a state championship. They knew what needed to get done, and that’s what they did. They got the job done.”

Trinity placed fifth, which left head coach Kelly Horrell feeling satisfied.  

“Our swimmers did great today,” Horrell said. “We had a lot of best times. I’m really proud of how they did. We came in in fifth place, which is not quite up to our standards, but we will take it and be happy with it.”

No Shamrocks won individual state championships, but Trinity’s 400 freestyle relay team placed fourth and Chandler Lichte was fifth in the 100 breaststroke. All-American Thomas Cooper won two state championships for Trinity as a junior last year but missed most of this season with an undisclosed illness.

“We’ve missed Thomas a lot,” Horrell said. “We also had a couple of other kids that were out. One kid transferred out. Those things happen every year. It wasn’t that big of a deal.”



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