February 25th, 2017

The legacy lives on as St. X claims 29th title in a row

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Paul Najjar

Senior Writer

The legacy lives on as St. X claims 29th title in a row
The St. X Tigers swim team hold high their 29th straight state swimming championship trophy

We’ve heard the familiar strains of “Hail Saint Xavier Alma Mater, Hail we pledge our loyalty…” for 29 straight state swim meets now following another monster effort from the Tigers at the boy’s KHSAA Swimming and Diving Championship Saturday afternoon at the University of Louisville’s Ralph Wright Natatorium.

St. X earned 453.5 points in their title-winning effort and more than doubled runners-up Covington Catholic’s 204.5 points in the process. Lexington Catholic (161) finished third and Trinity finished fourth overall with 136.5 points.

State records were recorded in eight of the 12 swimming events with the Tigers setting four of those record-breaking times.  

They began the day making a big statement in the 200 Medley Relay with the foursome of Martin Nitzken, Keefer Barnum, Conner Kang, Michael Eastman turning in a 1:32.31 time breaking the record by just .03 that was set by last year’s St. X relay team.

That was followed by junior Aldon Johnston’s record-breaking time of 1:36.89 in the 200 Free.

Later, senior Keefer Barnum, a Virginia commit, broke his own state record in the 100 Breaststroke in 54.36. Barnum finished second in the 200 Individual Medley, just ahead of Nitzken (third) and Grant Largen (sixth). Eastman finished third in the 50 Free and Brown and Kang finished in third and eighth, respectively, in the 100 Fly.

The Tigers placed four swimmers in the top eight in the 100 Free, with Eastman (fourth), Cole (sixth), Andrew Streater (seventh) and Dominick Tomchek (eighth). Peter Hurst and Grant Largen finished sixth and seventh in the 500 Free. Nitzken (third) and Tomchek (fifth) placed in the top eight in the 100 Back.

In the final event of the day, the Tigers’ 400 Free Relay of Johnston, Will Cole, Cole Brown and Eastman shaved 2.04 seconds off the state record clocking a 3.03.68.

While the stars certainly shined brightly for the Tigers, it’s a credit to the 100-strong team members and the energy they create as a group that brings title after title to the storied program.

“We talk to our boys about taking ownership and accountability and they do,” St. X head coach Todd Larkin said. “It’s a collective responsibility towards one another to finish the mission (of winning a state title) and having each other’s backs. It allows us to embrace that target knowing that we have that many students invest in what we do. It’s very, very gratifying to experience as a coach.”

Trinity sophomore sprint freestyle star Hunter Tapp surpassed Shamrocks’ alum Thomas Cooper’s 100 Free record set in 2012 by .06 seconds recording a 44.65 to win that championship heat. Tapp also won the 50 Free in 20.60 setting a new Trinity record in that event.

“I really didn’t think about the 100 record going into it,” Tapp said. “I just went out and tried to get a good lead after the first 50. I put myself in a great position to have a great back-half of the race and go for the record.”

Tapp out-touched North Oldham’s William Tarvest by .03 to win the 50 Free.

“It’s not the closest finish I’ve ever had, but I think what won it for me was my finish,” Tapp said of the 50 Free win. “I saw him (Tarvest) out of the corner of my eye and knew I had to make my last stroke really fast and get my arm around fast. That last stroke won it for me.”

Trinity head coach Kelly Horrell, who is retiring after nine seasons at the helm, on Tapp’s performance: “It was a monster performance by Hunter to set that record in the 100 Free and then set the school record in the 50 Free. We finished 11th last year and now fourth overall this year and all of these guys are sophomores. We’re well-placed to compete for the next couple of years. It’s been a blast to work with these young men. We’ve had some great swimmers through the years and Hunter’s just the latest. He had such a great finish to win the 50.”

Christian Academy’s Nicolas Albiero broke the 100 Fly and 100 Back records in the preliminaries on Friday and re-set those records in the finals today. In the 100 Fly, Albiero’s 46.29 won it by more than four seconds. His 100 Back time of 47.23 was nearly three seconds faster than second place.

Lexington Catholic sophomore Zach Hils set a new record in the 200 Individual Medley with a 1:48.83, besting the old mark set in 2012 by CovCath’s Max Williamson by .05 seconds.

Barnum broke the 100 Breaststroke record that he set in 2016 by recording a 54.36.

“It’s great to accomplish this and I’m just so happy we’ve done so well,” Barnum said. “A big thank you to our coaches and all of my teammates because I wouldn’t be here without them. I’m amazed at what this program and the student-athletes involved are able to achieve every year. You can’t train by yourself and the younger guys will continue to do a great job because they’re such great racers. It’s so important to have older swimmers to look up to, train with and learn from. They inspire you to set goals that you never imagined you could achieve.”

And so, “Hail Saint Xavier Alma Mater, hail we respect thy legacy…”

Twenty-nine state swim titles and counting.


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