The Bishop Hendricken boys' swim team cheers with the trophy after winning its 24th straight state championship on Monday.
Each season has its own narrative, its own distinct route from the beginning of December until the state meet in February. Sometimes there are stars, sometimes there is just overwhelming depth. Regardless of the way it happens, though, it always seems to end with the Hendricken swimming team raising the trophy.
On Monday, at Brown University, the Hawks did it again.
Behind the leadership of its three senior captains, Hendricken captured first place in two relays and loaded up on points in the freestyle events on its way to a 24th consecutive boys’ state swimming championship and its 27th in school history.
The Hawks scored 309 points, easily out-distancing second-place Smithfield’s 224.50 and third-place North Kingstown’s 196.50. Like clockwork, Hendricken systematically moved through each event and did what it had to do to keep Rhode Island’s longest active state-title streak alive.
“It’s unbelievable,” captain Chase Martin said. “To work this hard for four years, and to be captains together at the end of four years - it’s just amazing.”
Martin and fellow captains Mike Fedorenko and Nick Tomasso paced the team. Fedorenko had the highest individual finishes on the day with two second-place showings, all three swimmers were on the winning 4x100 free relay team, Martin added a fourth and a fifth, Tomasso had a 10th and an 11th and Martin and Tomasso were on the fourth-place 200 medley relay team.
“We all started out doing different strokes, it’s changed over the years,” Tomasso said. “I know coach has been proud watching us all these years and it’s just been a blast going through all these swims. Now it’s over. Way to go out with a bang.”
One reason that this year’s championship was a little different then the past was the way the season started out. Hendricken lost its first dual meet of the season 49-45 to North Kingstown, its first loss of any kind since 2005-06.
“I was so downtrodden when we lost that,” Tomasso said. “It’s not just the team that’s counting on you, it’s the whole school. It’s a tradition. If we lose, there’s no showing our faces at school.”
That forced the team to do some self-evaluation in order to get back on the right track.
“I think it was a wake-up call, but they put their nose to the grindstone,” head coach Dave Hanson said. “We work hard. I’m sure other teams work hard, but we really do. It’s a process.”
They also switched around the lineup some, and the results spoke for themselves. Hendricken didn’t lose another dual meet, and cruised to the class championship and then the state title to cap it off.
“There was a ton of grinding between swimmers on the team,” Fedorenko said. “One of our freshman stars, Marc Andrews, we didn’t really know where to put him where he’d be the most useful. A few of us - me, Chase - we were swimming a little slow in the freestyle events starting off. We had to change everything off, right from the start.”
And right from the start on Monday, it was clear the Hawks were in complete control.
The medley relay team of Andrews, Jon O’Connell, Tomasso and Martin finished fourth in the first event of the day, but cut two full seconds off of its qualifying time.
Then the team hit the water in the 200 freestyle, and really left its mark. Fedorenko led the way, powering to second-place behind only Cumberland standout Andrew Bauer. Junior Michael Sundberg - seeded fourth in the event - out-did his seeding with a third-place showing.
But Hendricken didn’t stop there. Junior James Manni took eighth and freshman Brendan Crowe finished 12th. All in all, the Hawks scored 49 points in that one event.
“We came right back in the 200 free and Fedorenko takes second, Sundberg takes third, Manni takes eighth and then Brendan Crowe takes 12th,” Hanson said. “We don’t have any superstars, but it’s a team. I wouldn’t trade them for anybody.”
From there, the Hawks just tried to keep their foot on the gas pedal. Andrews grabbed fifth in the 200 individual medley, while O’Connell and Tomasso picked up important points while finishing 10th and 11th.
In the 50 free, Martin swam the second-fastest time in school history at 22.08 seconds, taking fourth in the event. Also helping Hendricken was junior Dan Fedorenko. Seeded 29th and swimming in the fifth heat out of eight, Fedorenko swam to a 13th-place finish, adding four more points to the Hawks lead.
Tomasso grabbed 15th in the 100 butterfly, and then Hendricken hit the pool in the 100 free. In only the sixth event of the day, it was where the Hawks delivered their knockout blow.
Mike Fedorenko finished in second place, Martin finished in fifth, Manni finished in seventh and Dan Fedorenko finished in 15th. Those four picked up 45 points, and Hendricken was cruising.
“I thought after the 100 free we were fine,” Hanson said. “When you get four kids that score, and Danny Fedorenko coming out of no where and Mike Fedorenko has been great all year. It’s hard to beat that.”
Even though Hendricken was well ahead, it still padded its total. Sundberg finished third in the 500 free and Jacob Fox finished 12th. Then the Hawks’ 200 free relay team of Martin, Manni, Tomasso and Mike Fedorenko captured the team’s first first-place finish of the day.
That win was especially gratifying considering the team was the same last year, and it finished in second place at sates.
“You know what’s nice, for me, my 200 free relay we lost last year,” Hanson said. “Those kids were on that team. The same team. They came back and won, and there are three seniors on that team.”
Andrews finished eighth in the 100 backstroke, with Carlson on his heels in 13th. In the 100 breaststroke, O’Connell finished eighth and Fox finished 16th.
And with the title already clinched, Hendricken finished off its dominant win in style. Swimming the 400 free relay, the team of Manni, Andrews, Sundberg and Fedorenko blew away the competition for another first-place finish.
“We were doing good, but being like, ‘Don’t look at the points,’” Fedorenko said. “It’s not something you want to think about before you swim.”
But after that relay, the team was free to look at the scores and see the results, and everyone could breathe an easy sigh of relief.
The Hawks are champions again.
“Each win feels great,” Hanson said. “You know me, it’s all about the seniors. Today, they got it done.”
TG’s Bailer puts together strong showing
Toll Gate doesn’t have a boys’ swimming team of its own, so junior Will Bailer has to compete as an individual.
It hasn’t stopped him from making a name for himself.
Bailer, who swims for the Kent County YMCA, competed in his third state meet of his high school career on Monday and left Brown with his best times of the season.
“My times have been just slow all season, and I’ve been kind of down on myself,” Bailer said. “But I really get motivated for this meet and decided to really step up.”
Bailer’s first event was the 50 free, where he drastically out-swam his seeding position. Seeded 16th, Bailer finished in 10th place overall.
Then, in the 100 free, Bailer out-swam his 15th-place seeding to finish in eighth.
His two swims accounted for 18 points, and actually gave Toll Gate a 22nd-place finish at the meet.
“I came in here with kind of a slow season,” Bailer said. “But I always do great at this meet. I wasn’t really expecting these times, but I think I did pretty good for a slow season.”