February 27th, 2016

St. X swimmers capture 28th straight state title

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Conor Revell

Managing Editor

St. X swimmers capture 28th straight state title
The Tigers pose with the first place trophy / photo by Conor Revell
St. Xavier’s swim team is nationally known for churning out top swimmers year after year, and the Tigers lived up to that reputation Saturday when they  won their 28th straight KHSAA state championship at the University of Louisville’s Natatorium. 
“We manage the team well and I have a great coaching staff,” St. X head coach Todd Larkin said. “Our guys step up. In a meet like this, where it’s as close as it was, every point is going to matter. We just kind of chip away at it and chip away at it. It’s a team win and it’s a team title. Everybody here contributes to that.” 
Brophy College Prep (Ariz.) is the only school in the country that can match the Tigers streak and won its 28th straight state title last November. 
The Tigers have won 52 state titles in the past 69 years, 
“I think it’s all about the little things,” senior diver Michael Miller said. “It’s all about the hard work, tradition and the brother hood. It also helps that everybody knows who we are around town. A lot of the freshmen come in knowing what the expectations are.” 
St. X won three events and placed in the top two in every competition but three to finish with 361 points. Covington Catholic had 317 points for second while Collegiate placed third with 173. 
It didn’t take long for the Tigers to make their presence known as Martin Nitzken, Keefer Barnum, Matt Steiden and Clayton Forde won the 200-yard medley relay in record-setting fashion with a time of 1:32.34, three seconds ahead of CovCath. 
The old record was set by their teammates last year. 
“In a relay everyone has to do well,” Forde said. “It’s all about teamwork. It’s a short race, being only 50 yards (per swimmer), you have to be explosive and go as fast as you can.” 
Aldan Johnston placed second in the 200 freestyle when he clocked a 1:38.66, less than a second behind first-place Brendan Meyer of CovCath. 
“I just block out everything and imagine what it’s like to swim the race and to win,” Johnston said. “Sometimes you also have to imagine what it’s like to lose because if you’re not ready for that it can really mess you up.” 
Johnston, a sophomore, missed the state meet last year with a 104-degree fever. 
“Aldan is a gamer,” Larkin said. “He has so much talent. He works so hard and in that situation you just give a guy like that the ball. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a great kid and a great talent. We’re really happy for him to get a little bit of redemption this year.” 
And the sophomore isn’t finished; he says he’s going to come back.  
“Coming in second makes me really hungry,” Johnston said. “I think I can break a couple of records in the next few years.” 
Forde picked up his second medal of the day when he swam the 200 individual medley in 1:50.80, one second behind Lexington Catholic’s Zach Hill. 
Miller gave the Tigers their second win of the day, taking diving competition with 437.05 points. CovCath’s Evan Brungs placed second with 423.40. 
“It involves a lot of mental preparation, stretching and repetition,” Miller said. “You have to have confidence and not worry about who's above you or who's below you and just focus on the event and do your best."
He is off to the University of Kentucky next year but isn’t sure if he’s going to continue his diving career. 
“He nailed the last dive of his high school career,” Larkin said. “He’s amazing. We first met him when he was in seventh grade. He grew up doing our diving clinics and he’s just a phenomenal kid. I couldn’t be happier for him. It’s a great end to a great career.” 
The Tigers had a scare when CovCath clocked a 1:24.02 to win the 500 free relay and the Tigers' Steiden, Michael Eastman, Johnston and Forde placed second in 1:24.92. 
Relays are worth more than individual events as the winner gets 40 points rather than 20. 
Barnum nailed the Colonels coffin when he recorded a 55.31 and beat out Owensboro Catholic’s Michael Hampel by just one second to win the 100 breaststroke.
CovCath didn’t have a swimmer in the championship heat. 
“I think it comes down to my training, teammates, and coaching staff,” Barnum said. “I couldn’t do this without them. If I was by myself I wouldn’t be where I am today. When you get good training, you get good results.” 
It’s the second straight year Barnum has won the event.
CovCath clocked a 3:06.38 to win the 400 free relay, but Johnston, Cole Brown, Dominic Tomchek and Michael Eastman recorded a time of 3:11.06 to give the Tigers a second-place finish. 
“Everybody stepped up,” Larkin said. “We talked to them yesterday and said there’s going to be opportunities to leave nothing in the pool and swim it like it was your last race. That’s what they did and they took that ownership. That’s why we’re champions.”  
Freshman Hunter Tapp led Trinity to a 10th-place finish.  He recorded a second-place finish in the 50 free with a time of 21.15. North Oldham’s Will Tarvestad won in 21.10. Tapp also placed fourth in the 100 free. 

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