End of the run, but what a run it was
In early 1989, a 1-year-old Kevin Pomeroy probably enjoyed the premiere of Thomas & Friends, a show about a blue, talking, cartoon tank engine that was being shown in America for the first time ever.
That’s my guess anyway. It’s a little hard to say with any real certainty what exactly I was doing at that point in my life. My memory of my first year on the Earth isn’t exactly rock solid.
You know what else I don’t remember from 1989? Someone other than Hendricken winning the boys’ swimming state championship.
It’s been that long since it happened.
On Sunday, I stood there at the Brown University pool and watched Smithfield knock off Hendricken for the championship, the first time in 25 full years that anyone besides the Hawks has gotten their hands on the trophy.
A quarter century. Lifetimes have come and gone and the world has dramatically changed since Hendricken’s historical streak began in 1990. For 24 consecutive years, Hendricken – under the guidance of Dave Hanson, the only coach in the program’s history – was the best swimming team in the state, with zero exceptions.
While the Hawks were sad to see it end, the end at least offers a chance for reflection.
The streak is the pinnacle of sports accomplishments at a school where the bar is set higher than anywhere else in the state. Hendricken will exist long into the future and that streak will never, ever be replicated.
Think of how hard it was for the football program to win one title after a 13-year drought. The basketball team reeled in seven in a row earlier this century, and now hasn’t won since 2010.
Maybe a better example are the sports that Hendricken absolutely dominates – indoor track, outdoor track and cross country. Well, the indoor track team won 17 in a row and now has lost two of the last three. The outdoor team won nine in a row, but nine ain’t 24. Cross country has won 13 of the last 17.
Not even close.
You know why those all ended before 24? Because it only takes one school to have one special season for it all to end. The stars just have to align one time, and they always do eventually. Yet for 24 years, Hendricken swimming somehow avoided every pitfall.
A common theme when discussing high school sports in this state is the notion that “Hendricken wins everything.” And for as much as Hendricken does win, they certainly don’t win everything.
Except in swimming, because in the world of swimming, since the tail end of the Cold War, Hendricken has won everything.
There was no Cinderella story, no emerging public school power, not even for one solitary season. There was only Hendricken.
It’s an incredible accomplishment. Just think of the world in 1989.
The first season of Seinfeld premiered. George Bush – H.W., not W. – was inaugurated. Barack Obama was still at Harvard Law.
Pete Rose was banned from baseball for life. Blake Griffin and Rory McIlroy were born. Troy Aikman was taken No. 1 overall in the NFL draft.
There was still an East and West Germany.
There were no cell phones, there was no internet at your house.
Remember AOL, and that horrible dial-up noise your computer used to make while you connected to the internet?
That wouldn’t come around for a few more years.
It was literally a different world.
Over the next two-plus decades, life as we know it changed, and Hendricken swimming didn’t. Different kids, different venues, different challengers, different everything.
Same results. Same Hawks.
When you walk around Hendricken, there are plaques everywhere celebrating the school’s athletic accomplishments. Next time you’re there, take a moment to notice just how many of them are for swimming. Then think of where you were 25 years ago.
You’ll realize just how long Hendricken swimming has been the best.
It was a hell of a run.
Kevin Pomeroy is the assistant sports editor for the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.