The talent and depth of the Saint Ignatius swimming & diving program were on full display this weekend.
The Wildcats hosted the 44th annual Viking Invitational on Friday and Saturday at Busbey Natatorium at Cleveland State University. Aided by the efforts of a host of parents and volunteers, the meet went perfectly, as always.
The team's swimmers put on a great show, too. The Wildcats notched impressive times for just the second week of the regular season and earned a bucketful of top finishes.
No team scores are recorded at the Viking Invitational, but the Wildcats' impactful efforts in every race would have placed the team near the top.
One of the best highlights of the weekend for the Wildcats occurred in the 100 breaststroke. The Wildcats won two of the top five spots with great times. Nicky Hong clinched second with a time of 58.64 and Zach Toothman snagged fourth with a time of 1:01.32. Both of the times are exceptional for this early in the season, which bodes well for later on this year. Robert Gavigan also tabbed a nice time of 1:02.98, placing him 12th in a packed field.
Another big moment occurred on Saturday morning during the A session prelims. Three Wildcats knocked off five seconds of their previous times in the 500 free. As several Saint Ignatius coaches marveled, that doesn't happen too often. Christian Wolke (5:01.98), Michael Bednar (5:06.06), and Robert Gavigan (5:12.52) swam a marvelous race in the 500 free. The trio finished 8th, 10th, and 13th, respectively, a proud early season accomplishment.
Wolke also enjoyed success in the 200 free. The freshman clocked in at 1:53.97, placing 15th. Wolke has great things ahead of him this season and beyond.
The Wildcats did well in several other short races. Micah Murtha (22:38) and John Soeder (22.71) raced to 11th and 13th in the 50 free final. Nicky Hong did well in the 100 fly, continuing his excellent day with a seventh-place effort of 54.92. Joe Richmond also placed with an 18th place time of 55.94.
A major highlight came in the 100 free. Daemyen Haywood flew to second in the final, capturing a time of 48.03 in an outstanding finish for the junior. Thomas Metz followed his lead with a 50.76 in the event, placing 11th.
Haywood also performed superbly in the 100 backstroke. Haywood clocked in at 12th with a time of 56.79. John Libertin also placed in the event, taking 18th with a time of 57.67.
The Wildcats placed two in the top ten in the 200 individual medley. Toothman again aced the race, finishing in 2:00.64 to stake out fifth place. Richmond clinched 10th with a time of 2:04.16.
Expert efforts abounded in the relays. The Wildcats placed in two races and nearly did in a third.
The near miss came in the 200 medley relay. The quartet of Libertin, Hong, Richmond, and Soeder were disqualified in heartbreaking fashion by the referees in the final race.
Despite the setback, the Wildcats' other relay squads did admirably.
In the 200 free relay, the Aqua Cats took fourth. Murtha (22.44), William Van De Walle (23.01), Metz (22.64), Soeder (21.94) combined for a time of 1:30.03. And in the 400 free relay, the Wildcats snatched fifth. Murtha (51.81), Haywood (48.37), Metz (49.74), and Richmond (49.41) teamed up for a mark of 3:19.33.
The Wildcats did well in the diving portion on Friday, too. In an 11 dive format, instead of a typical 6-dive event, Will Claus notched sixth place. The sophomore earned a score of 391.80. Meanwhile, Noah Keim took 14th place with a final score of 126.55.
Attention is often focused solely on A sessions in swim meet, but future stars are often on display in the B session. The Wildcats have many young stars and hard working veteran who excelled in the B session on Saturday afternoon.
Daniel Argolious shined brightly on Saturday, stealing second in the 50 free. The fast freshman clocked in at 24.17 in the quickest event in swimming, wowing fans with his speed. Argolious also placed in the 100 fly, coming in at 10th, but fellow freshman Sam Hessler stole the show in the event. Hessler earned seventh with a time of 1:04.06. John Zaky also placed, finishing 15th with a mark of 1:10.04.
Hessler stood out in the 100 backstroke, too. The first-year Wildcat snapped up second, clocking in at 1:03.37. Keep an eye on Hessler moving forward this season.
A host of Cats placed in the 100 breaststroke. To be exact, four finished in the top 10 and six placed in the top 20. Jack Johannessen led the way in fourth with a time of 1:11.03. Kartar Vig (1:12.00), Brice Cerar (1:12.48), Vincent Elmore (1:12.59) then touched the wall in rapid succession, in seventh, eighth, and ninth places, respectively. Damon Durrah (1:13.64) and John Giovannazzo (1:14.76) rounded out the talented pack with 13th and 19th place marks.
Johannessen and Giovannazzo also tabbed nice times in the 100 free. Johannessen claimed 15th with a time of 56.68 and Giovannazzo earned 18th in 57.22.
The positive results kept coming in the 200 IM. Elmore won bronze medal with a time of 2:18.96, leading the way for two other young swimmers. Cerar (2:22.17) and Vig (2:23.04) tallied back-to-back places of 10th and 11th in the event.
Two familiar faces placed in the 200 free. Thomas McIntyre continued his nice freshman season with a time of 1:59.00 in the event, capturing third. Stephen Buckles, the receipient of the #34 Jim Skerl Award, took 20th with a mark of 2:17.06.
McIntyre also did great work in the 500 free. In the longest event of the week, the first-year Wildcat notched a third-place time of 5:22.09.
Besides the swimming, plenty of other moments highlighted a fun weekend. Santa Claus visited the natatorium, passing out gifts of gear and apparel for the hard-working swimmers at the meet on Saturday evening.
A host of Saint Ignatius parents and coaches deserve credit for helping the meet go off without a hitch. In particular, thank you to:
• Head Coach Mike Lehto and his assistant coaches, particularly Jim Hlavaty '89, Kevin Carmichael, and Tom Blankenship
• The parents and families for their assistance and help, such as the Hongs and the Toothmans
• The 1,000 swimmers and divers who attended and participating in the meet, particularly those who drove far for the event
Next up for the Wildcats is a trip to Columbus next weekend. The squad will face Upper Arlington on Friday and St. Charles on Saturday.