The Bishop Hendricken swim team needed one more win to clinch a sixth consecutive undefeated season, but heading into Tuesday’s finale, the Hawks knew they couldn’t put it on cruise control.
Undefeated Barrington was coming to town, and the Hawks had to shuffle their lineup because a key swimmer was out sick. After five of 11 events, the Hawks and Eagles found themselves tied with 21 points apiece.
But from that point on, the Hawks flexed their muscles. They took first and second in the next three individual events, took first and third in the last individual event and won both of the final two relays. That strong finish sent the Hawks to a 60-34 victory and another perfect season.
“It was good, especially after a rough start,” said Hendricken head coach Dave Hanson. “It’s tough. We have one kid out sick and we don’t have a lot of flexibility. We had to move everything around. But the kids stepped up.”
The Hawks were without sophomore James Manni, a key part of the relay teams and typically a strong second swimmer in both the 100 and 200 freestyle events. While not the kind of loss that would cripple the Hawks, being without Manni meant the door was open a little more for an already strong Barrington team to spring an upset.
And in the early going, the Eagles looked like they might step through that door.
Hendricken won the 200 medley relay to start the meet, but the Eagles salvaged four points by taking second and third. The Hawks then got wins from Mike Fedorenko in the 200 free and Andrew Robinson in the 200 IM, but again the Eagles stayed close by taking second in both those events.
Then came the 50 freestyle, and when it was over, the Hawks were starting to sweat. Barrington’s Nick Toselli won the race in 26.38 seconds, and teammate Owen Bellamy took second. Chase Martin finished third for Hendricken, but the one-two finish gave the Eagles seven points and tied the score at 17-17.
The teams then remained tied after the 100 butterfly. Alex Powers won it for the Hawks, but the Eagles took second and third, making it 21-21.
The next event would say a lot. Without Manni, the Hawks plugged Martin, a junior, into the 100 freestyle. It was reasonable to think the Eagles could make up some more ground thanks to that change.
Instead, Fedorenko won the event for the Hawks, and Martin edged Toselli for second place. Suddenly, the Hawks were up 28-22.
“Chase Martin stepped up big,” Hanson said. “That was the turning point of the meet. After Barrington went one-two in the 50, it looked like they were going to be in good shape. But we came back and went one-two in the 100.”
And the Hawks never looked back.
Robinson and sophomore Michael Sundberg stormed to a one-two finish in the 500 freestyle, putting the Hawks up by 12. Hendricken’s team of Martin, Powers, Fedorenko and Nick Tomasso then won the 200 free relay. Barrington took second and third, but the Hawks now led by 14.
Pretty soon, the lead was insurmountable. Powers won the 100 backstroke, with Tomasso taking second. Jon O’Connell followed with a first-place finish in the 100 breaststroke, and Jacob Fox finished third, making it 53-31.
For good measure, the Hawks got a win from Fedorenko, Tomasso, Martin and Robinson in the 400 free relay and added a third-place finish from Sundberg, O’Connell, Fox and Mark Euell.
With that, the Hawks could celebrate another perfect season.
“The kids have stepped up,” Hanson said in summing up the season. “Powers has been fantastic – Robinson, Fedorenko. Those guys have been top-shelf. The other kids – James Manni, Michael Sundberg, Chase Martin, John O’Connell – all those sophomores and juniors have done a great job. I can’t tell you how much they’ve improved.”
Now the Hawks will get to see how they stack up when it matters most. They’ll compete in the class meet this weekend before shooting for their 23rd consecutive state championship on Feb. 26.
“Knock on wood, if no one gets sick or hurt, I feel pretty good,” Hanson said. “I think we’re in pretty good shape.”