The Hendricken swimming team’s 22nd consecutive state title ended up coming fairly easy last season, as the Hawks dominated the state meet and easily outdistanced second-place Barrington.
Number 23, although still more likely to happen than not, isn’t shaping up to be quite as much of a cakewalk.
Hendricken graduated Ian Dinwoodie, Jack Kilpatrick and David Evans, three All-State swimmers, from last year’s team and it’s doing what it can to help fill the void.
While certain swimmers have made big improvements, the Hawks just aren’t going to have the top-line depth of a season ago.
But they’re trying to get as close as they can.
“It’s a work in progress,” Hendricken head coach Dave Hanson said. “We’ve got a lot of new young kids. Our young kids from last year have stepped up and improved quite a bit.”
And despite not having exactly as many dominant swimmers this season, Hendricken does have three who will be among the best in the state.
All-State seniors Alex Powers and Andrew Robinson, as well as All-State junior Mike Fedorenko are back in the fold and should score a heavy amount of the team’s points on their own.
They already have quite a list of accomplishments.
A season ago, at the state meet, Powers came in second in the 200 individual medley and third in the 100 freestyle. Robinson was part of the winning 200 medley relay team, was fourth in the 200 I.M. and was third in the 500 freestyle. Fedorenko was third in the 200 freestyle and fifth in the 100 free. All three of them were also members of the second-place 400 freestyle relay team, while Powers and Fedorenko were part of the second-place 200 freestyle relay team.
Hanson knows just how important their success is to his team’s overall success.
“Alex, he’s deluxe No. 1,” Hanson said. “Alex can do anything. Freestyle, backstroke, butterfly, I.M. Andrew is just right behind him. He’s a great freestyler, I.M’er, breaststroker. Mike is a top-notch freestyler – 200 free, 100 free, 500 free if I needed him.”
Yet, the Hawks won’t be able to win again without contributions from their other swimmers, five of whom Hanson thinks can make a significant difference.
Junior Nick Tomasso is one, and he came in 11th in both the 200 free and the 500 free at last year’s state meet. He’s gotten better already this season, which will allow Hanson to move Powers – his most versatile swimmer – to some of his better events.
“Nick Tomasso, he did score for us, but his improvement is allowing me to move Powers around,” Hanson said. “That’s the name of the game.”
Also expected to help is junior Chase Martin, who was on the Hawks’ second-place 200 freestyle relay team last season and came in 15th in the 400 free.
Sophomore Jon O’Connell, who came in 12th at states last year in the 100 breaststroke, has been improving rapidly, and he showed that during Hendricken’s season-opening 65-29 victory over Cumberland on Tuesday at McDermott Pool. O’Connell finished less than a second behind Robinson in the 400 breaststroke.
“In the breaststroke race, John O’Connell was right on Andrew,” Hanson said. “So I could take Andrew out of there, and put him somewhere else.”
Then there are sophomores James Manni and Michael Sundberg. Hanson believes that Manni could score in the 100 free, 200 free and potentially the 500 free, and Sundberg’s 500 free times this season have been in the range of last year’s 10th-place finisher.
Those five swimmers just may be the key to Hendricken’s season.
“I think we’re going to go as far as Michael Sundberg, James Manni, Chase Martin, Nick Tomasso and John O’Connell can go,” Hanson said. “Our second-string unit, so to speak.”
It still won’t be easy.
Hanson knows that even with the emergence of those five, he’ll have to spread his team thin to get where it wants to, relying heavily on someone like Powers – who could swim in as many as five individual events at states – to accumulate points.
“We’re very much spread out,” Hanson said. “I’ve got to rob Peter to pay Paul. I don’t have any butterfliers. I have to move people. Powers, he’s my best all-around swimmer. I’ve got to plug him into spots to fill holes.”
Still, though, the Hawks are the champs until someone is able to dethrone them. Hanson isn’t sure of the landscape around the state team-wise, but he knows there are plenty of strong swimmers.
Cumberland showed that, as junior Andrew Bauer stood out, even defeating Robinson in one of the individual medleys.
Those types of swimmers are around. Whether or not there are enough of them on one team to give Hendricken a serious run is yet to be determined.
“Everybody’s got a little bit,” Hanson said. “I don’t know if anybody’s got enough. Even us. We have a little bit, and a little bit more, but I don’t know if we have enough. I will say this – we’re working hard, and that’s all I can ask.”
The Hawks’ next meet will be on Tuesday against North Kingstown at St. George’s School Pool at 5:30 p.m.
“We’re not going to go down without a fight,” Hanson said. “I can tell you that much.”