The Wildcats are the new Kings of the Northwest.
On Saturday at Bowling Green State University, the Saint Ignatius swimming & diving team dethroned Toledo St. Francis, winners of 53 of the last 54 Northwest District Meets, and 11-time defending champs dating back to 2008.
That streak is over.
The Wildcats posted an absolutely dominant performance on Saturday in securing first place with 462 points. The Aqua Cats bested the Knights by 105 points in an authoritative victory, the first District swimming title for Saint Ignatius since 2012. In doing so, the Wildcats qualified nine swimmers in 11 events (8 individual events, 3 relays) for the State Meet. See the end of the article for the full list.
In recent years, the Wildcats have been sent to the Northwest District Meet at Bowling Green to balance the large number of Northeast District teams with the lesser number of schools in the Northwest. After defeating St. Francis in a dual meet last season, the Wildcats made a run at the Knights in the 2019 District Meet, placing in second with 396 points. This year, the Cats left no doubt.
The Wildcats set the tone at the start of the meet in the 200 medley relay. Tyler Hong, Zach Toothman, Brian Johnson, and John Soeder left no doubt in winning the event with a time of 1:32.85, dropping three seconds off the seed time. The quartet secured a spot in the State Meet, and set a District record, surpassing the previous mark of 1:33.17.
Four Cats placed in the top 13 of the 200 free. Joe Richmond led the pack with a time of 1:43.15 for third place, not enough for an automatic bid but enough for an at-large spot. Thomas Metz corraled ninth place with a mark of 1:49.19, while Tommy McIntyre and Michael Bednar swam together, finishing 12th and 13th with respective times of 1:49.19 and 1:49.35, not enough for State spots.
In the 200 individual medley, no one came close to Tyler Hong. The junior flew past the competition for a winning time of 1:49.63. In the process, Hong set District and school records. The previous Saint Ignatius mark was Hong's, so don't print that record in pen just yet. Zach Toothman and Kian Carmichael also posted great efforts of 1:57.53 and 1:57.90 for third and fourth, respectively. Sam Hessler unfortunately missed the cut at 2:00.78 in ninth, as did Toothman and Carmichael.
The Wildcats grabbed an upset in the 50 free. Kyle Gluck of St. Edward was the favorite in the event after winning the event at Sectionals. But John Soeder raced past him and captured the gold in the event, shaving 0.66 seconds off his time to touch the wall at 20.98. Soeder bested Gluck by .06 seconds in an emotional win over the rival that also earned him an automatic bid to States. Will Van de Walle also dropped time, .73 seconds to be exact, earning sixth at 21.51. Micah Murtha made the top 10 with a 10th place time of 21.96. Cormac Nolan rounded out the Cat Pack in 13th at 22.07. Murtha and Nolan did not get in, but Van de Walle squeaked in as an at-large, the 24th and final swimmer to make the cut.
The 100 butterfly did not yield any bids to the State Meet. Brian Johnson earned sixth with a time of 51.77, leading the Saint Ignatius contingent. Daniel Argalious snagged 11th at 54.17, Nolan notched 12th in 54.72, and Cameron Marcie nabbed 14th in 54.92.
The 100 free was again a battle of Gluck and Soeder. This time, Gluck won the event, but Soeder still got an automatic qualifier for next week. In scoring second, Soeder dropped 1.80 seconds for a final time of 46.49. Carmichael followed next for the Wildcats with a seventh-place mark of 47.79. Murtha also broke 47 seconds, touching the wall in 47.92 for ninth. Metz rounded out the Saint Ignatius delegation with a time of 48.43 for 13th.
Another record was set in the 500 free, and this time it was Joe Richmond. The star junior flowed to a time of 4:35.99 for the District crown, breaking the previous record of 4:36.71. Up until Saturday, Todd Minnier (1999-00) and Joey Libertin (2016-17) had held the record. Sorry, Todd and Joey! McIntrye followed Richmond's lead, completing the marathon in 4:53.63 for seventh, Bednar grasped 9th with a mark of 4:54.75, and Brendan Kiskorna tallied a time of 4:58.87, all solid but not enough for a ticket to Canton.
The Wildcats experienced a defeat to the Knights in the 200 free relay, but still snatched a State bid. Murtha, Carmichael, Van de Walle, and Soeder combined for a time of 1:25.30 for second place. The squad dropped 2.78 seconds from the seed time.
Hong returned to the pool for the 100 backstroke and wowed fans, as per usual. The junior shattered the previous District record with a time of 48.12 and once again broke the school mark in the event (his own record from last year). Again, don't write any records in stone just yet, as Hong may do even better next week. After all, he did trim 1.59 seconds off his seed time. Erik Seicean corded ninth place (54.15), Hessler claimed 10th (54.62), and Ben Stavar snagged 15th (58.06), all trimming time impressively, but not enough to claim a spot in next week's festivities.
Toothman qualified for the State Meet in the 100 breaststroke, narrowly thwarting a challenger for second place. The junior dropped 1.99 seconds from his seed time for a finish of 59.14. Robert Gavigan capped a time of 59.63 for fifth, and Vincent Elmore and Jack Johannessen did well with times of 1:03.29 and 1:03.42 for 14th and 17th, respectively. Unfortunately, all three missed the cut.
The evening ended with a narrow loss for the Wildcats to St. Francis, but it was too little, too late for the hometown team. The Clevelanders didn't complain about a second-place finish with a time of 3:07.20, slimming 4.88 seconds and claiming a place in the State Meet. Hong, Richmond, Murtha, and Carmichael combined quite well and look to do some more damage next week in Canton.
The State Meet will take place next Friday and Saturday at CT Branin Natatorium at Canton McKinley High School. The fun begins for the Wildcats on Friday with the Division I swimming prelims at 9 am. The diving portion will be conducted at 9 am on Saturday morning. The swimming finals will take place on Saturday starting at 4 pm.
Congrats to the Aqua Cats!
Full list of State Meet qualifiers:
1-meter diving: Will Claus
200 medley relay: Tyler Hong, Zach Toothman, Brian Johnson, John Soeder
200 IM: Tyler Hong
50 free: John Soeder, Will Van de Walle
100 free: John Soeder
500 free: Joe Richmond
200 free relay: Micah Murtha, Kian Carmichael, Will Van de Walle, John Soeder
100 back: Tyler Hong
200 free: Joe Richmond
100 breaststroke: Zach Toothman
400 free relay: Tyler Hong, Joe Richmond, Micah Murtha, Kian Carmichael