Every box has now been checked for Saint Ignatius swimming and diving, save for the biggest challenge of all -- the postseason.
The Aqua Cats concluded the regular season over the weekend, and did so in style. The Wildcats defeated Brecksville-Broadview Heights on a festive Senior Night on Friday and earned a second-place finish at the HB Blazer Invitational on Saturday and Sunday.
All that lies ahead now is the postseason, starting at Sectionals on February 9, and the Wildcats look ready as ever.
Wildcats celebrate three seniors with a victory
In a special pre-meet ceremony on Friday, the swimming & diving program recognized the team's three seniors -- Stephen Buckles, Nicky Hong, and John Libertin. These three young men have helped to guide the program this season, providing great leadership for a young, yet very deep, squad.
From the starting gun, the Wildcats raced well. The team captured a host of top finishes and showed great improvement entering the Sectional Meet.
Nicky Hong helped the Aqua Cats start off well in the 200 medley relay. The senior combined with his younger brother Tyler, Joe Richmond, and Micah Murtha for a time of 1:36.82, snagging first. The Wildcats also captured third and fourth places in the event. Kian Carmichael, Robert Gavigan, Gerald Johnson, and Cormac Nolan earned third with a time of 1:44.28. Daemyen Haywood, Zach Toothman, John Libertin, and William Van de Walle timed just behind for fourth at 1:44.33.
The 200 free relay produced similarly great results. Murtha, Nicky Hong, Van de Walle, and Soeder stole first place with a mark of 1:30.90. Cameron Marcie, Johnson, Nolan, and Thomas Metz flowed in just a few seconds later at 1:33.53 for third.
The final relay, the 400 free, ended in another points bonanza for the Wildcats. Haywood, Soeder, Richmond, and Tyler Hong touched the wall in first place. Marcie, Murtha, Carmichael, and Metz flew in closely behind for third place.
As per usual, Tyler Hong made plenty of noise, starting in the 200 free. The sophomore snatched the top finish with a time of 1:45.06. Metz nipped at his heels with a time of 1:53.22 for third, and Michael Bednar rounded out the trio with a fourth-place effort of 1:55.33.
Two Wildcats churned through the 200 IM for nice finishes. Richmond touched in at 2:02.73 for second while Toothman vaulted the competition for third at 2:05.49. Two stellar swimmers did nicely in the 50 free, too. Soeder won gold with a mark of 22.52 in impressive fashion. Nolan dashed to fourth with a time of 23.32.
Richmond and Nolan also tallied nice times in the 100 fly. Richmond poured out a third-place finish with a time of 54.00, while Nolan cut through the water for fourth and a mark of 56.20.
The Wildcats swept the competition in the 100 free. Soeder rocked the race with a first-place time of 50.09. Murtha was not far behind, clocking in at 50.66. Carmichael bottled a third-place of time in 50.83 to round out a closely-packed sweep.
The 500 free saw a different kind of sweep, as the Wildcats recorded a 2-3-4 finish. Christian Wolke led a tight-knit trio of Wildcats with a second-place time of 5:05.24. Bednar clocked in at 5:11.14 for third, while Libertin enjoyed a nice Senior Day time of 5:17.18 for fourth.
The Wildcats clipped the Bees again in the 100 back. Tyler Hong paved the way for the men of Ohio City, earning gold with a time of 51.77. Toothman beelined for third, touching the wall at 59.23. Carmichael completed the trio with a fourth-place time of 59.39.
In the final event of the swimming portion, the Wildcats picked up yet another win. Nicky Hong ended the meet with a top time of 58.70, followed by Gavigan with a mark of 1:04.80.
In the 1-meter diving portion, William Claus and Noah Keim shined brightly. Claus captured the top spot with a final score of 294.60. Keim followed in second with a tally of 201.90.
The Aqua Cats finish second at Blazer Invite
The momentum rolled into Saturday's swimming and Sunday's diving for the Aqua Cats.
The meet started with a solid finish for the Wildcats in the 200 medley relay. Sam Hessler, Wolke, Daniel Argalious, and Murtha combined for a time of 1:49.84, taking sixth place. The Wildcats also tabbed sixth in the 200 free relay. Bailey Detering, Vincent Elmore, Brendan Kiskorna, and Stefano Lopez notched a time of 1:46.62.
The final relay to score points was the 400 relay squad. John Zaky, Luke Slabe, Stephen Buckles, and Gavigan fought together for a sixth-place effort, clocking in at 3:56.63.
The individual events yielded plenty of success for the Wildcats, as well. Perhaps the most memorable finish occurred in the 50 free. Murtha earned the Wildcats' lone first-place finish of the packed event. The freshman's energetic race earned him the top time of 22.49 in a packed field. Soeder (23.18), Richmond (23.28), and Van de Walle (23.35) all hit the 23-second mark to finish fourth, fifth, and sixth, respectively. Nolan (24.02) and Gavigan (24.30) also placed eighth and ninth.
Two of the Wildcats' three seniors placed in one of the first races of the invitational, the 200 free. Seniors Nicky Hong and John Libertin conquered the event in 1:56.78 and 1:59.17 for ninth and 11th places, respectively. Thomas McIntyre tabbed a 10th place time of 1:57.06.
The 200 individual medley showcased many of the Wildcats' talented young swimmers. Wolke led the way with a sixth place mark of 2:11.47. Elmore, his fellow freshman, capped a time of 2:17.72 for seventh. Jack Johannessen and Brice Cerar nabbed 11th and 12th with times of 2:24.04 and 2:24.19.
Three juniors lit up the 100 fly for the Wildcats. Marcie (57.57), Johnson (58.06), and Nolan (58.29) kept each other on track, securing seventh through ninth places. Libertin (1:00.37) and Murtha (1:01.09) completed the Cat pack with 11th and 12th place efforts.
Another memorable performance came in the 100 free. Haywood notched one of the best finishes for the Wildcats with a third-place time of 49.76. Another junior, Kian Carmichael, followed just over a second later for fifth in 50.85. Van de Walle catapulted into sixth with a time of 52.11. Marcie came next at eighth at 52.44. Toothman (52.77), Bednar (52.99), and Argalious (53.29) carried 10th-12th for the Wildcats.
In the marathon 500 free, the Wildcats' lone competitor grabbed seventh. McIntyre repped the squad well, scoring a time of 5:17.97.
The Wildcats enjoyed more representation in the 100 back, with five swimmers in the event. Soeder guided the pack, touching the wall at 55.97 for third place. Haywood (58.47) and Carmichael (58.57) finished neck-and-neck, roping in fifth and sixth places. Toothman also clocked in below the 1-minute mark at 59.40, good enough for ninth. Hessler and Johnson completed the quintet with times of 1:02.01 and 1:03.78 for 10th and 12th.
In the final event of the evening, three Wildcats placed. Gavigan topped the trio with a time of 1:05.10 for fourth. Richmond rolled in at 1:05.88 for sixth. Wolke poured in a seventh-place effort of 1:06.63 to complete the trifecta.
In the diving portion on Sunday, the Wildcats' dynamic duo of Claus and Keim did well as always. Claus carried the day with a first-place score of 465.55 for six dives. Keim captured fourth with a six-dive score of 294.05.
With the weekend in the rearview mirror, the varsity team will prepare for the Sectional Meet. The JV swimmers will complete the season on Saturday at the JV Championships at Canton McKinley Natatorium.