Even though his team has been doing it every year for nearly a quarter-century, winning never ceases to be rewarding for Hendricken swimming coach Dave Hanson.
And this season was no different, as Hanson felt that familiar feeling once again on Sunday.
Competing at the State Championship Meet at URI’s Tootell Aquatic Center, the Hawks dominated from start to finish, racking up a total of 308 points to easily out-distance second-place North Kingstown’s 214 points and win their 23rd consecutive state championship.
Senior captains Alex Powers and Andrew Robinson were each part of two winning relay teams, while Powers won two individual events and Robinson won one. The rest of the team filled in around them, and like clockwork, the Hawks were raising the trophy once again.
“It feels fantastic,” Hanson said. “These kids did more with less than any other team I’ve ever had, seriously. They got as much out of themselves as they possibly could.”
While depth was a concern early in the season, it wasn’t on Sunday, as nine different Hawks factored into the scoring.
Powers, Robinson and junior Michael Fedorenko supplied the top-level swims – combining for eight top-five finishes, including relays – and Hendricken also got points from sophomores Jon O’Connell, Michael Sundberg James Manni and Jacob Fox, as well as juniors Chase Martin and Nick Tomasso.
“The younger guys really stepped it up this year and scored us a bunch of points we really needed today,” Robinson said. “It’s not just the first places. It’s all the other ones, too.”
That being said, the first places help, and the Hawks seized control of the meet by taking the top spot in the first two events of the day.
In the opening event, the team of Powers, O’Connell, Robinson and Martin beat its qualifying time by over a second in the 200 medley relay, finishing in 1:45.15 to win by more than two seconds and grab 40 points.
Hendricken followed that up by dominating the 200 freestyle. Powers captured first with a time of 1:46.14, and Fedorenko took third place in 1:51.52. Sundberg added an 11th-place finish and Manni grabbed 13th as well.
After just two events, the Hawks already had 100 points.
“It’s always a good sense of insurance, I guess you could call it, to start off well,” Robinson said.
But Hendricken was far from done.
Robinson beat his qualifying time by nearly five seconds in the 200 individual medley, swimming his way to second place. Tomasso grabbed seventh and O’Connell took 10th.
Martin was the only swimmer who scored for Hendricken in the 50 free, but the team’s depth showed again in the 100 free.
Fedorenko was the team’s top swimmer in the event, getting sixth place, and Martin took 10th while Manni added a 13th place.
“They all came through,” Hanson said.
In the next event, the 500 free, Hendricken all but locked up the title.
Robinson, who qualified in 4:57.58, swam his best time of the season with a 4:49.99. He edged out North Providence’s Jeff Laliberte by one second, exactly, to take first place.
Laliberte had a qualifying time of more than three seconds better than Robinson’s.
“I’ve been a 500 swimmer ever since I’ve been on this team,” Robinson said. “My goal this year was to go under 4:50. And I did that. And I also came in first, which is great. I was so happy to get that goal.”
To top it off, Sundberg came in sixth in the same event, while Tomasso was ninth and Fox was 13th. The Hawks scored 46 points in that event, alone.
From there, Hendricken took care of business in the final four events of the day.
The team of Martin, Manni, Tomasso and Fedorenko took second in the 200 free relay, Powers won the 100 back in a time of 53.33 seconds and O’Connell finished sixth in the 100 breast.
In the 400 free relay, the Hawks put the finishing touches on their title with a dominating victory. Fedorenko, Manni, Robinson and Powers swam the relay in 3:23.10, which was more than nine seconds better than second-place Barrington’s time.
“We usually have some really good relays,” Powers said. “Our individual swimmers shine in the relays, and then we have some other people who still do great.”
When it was over, the team gathered for pictures and basked in the moment.
It was another state title – just like the 22 before it – but it still felt equally as gratifying.
“I think it also feels really good, because years past we’ve had a lot of swimmers and a lot of depth,” Powers said. “We didn’t really have that. We had a lot of really high-placing individuals and then the depth came.”
And the Hawks rode that to a 23rd straight championship.
Toll Gate girls take 11th
The Toll Gate girls’ swimming team didn’t have its entire roster at the State Meet on Saturday, but the four girls it did send made quite an impression.
The Titans got strong performances from sophomores Mackenzie Kelly and Mikayla Rogers, junior Nina Yu and senior Emily Smith to finish with 67 total points.
La Salle won the team title with 307.50 points, while North Kingstown was second with 237.
“They all swam right around their best times, if not their best times,” Toll Gate head coach Michael Seidenberg said. “Relays did really well. They swam their best times in that. So we’re very happy with how the day went.”
The team’s top swimmer was Rogers, who swam to a fifth-place finish in the 100 butterfly in a time of 1:04.84 and a seventh-place finish in the 500 free with a 5:40.52.
“Mikayla had a very good meet,” Seidenberg said. “Last year, she had a little difficulty at this meet. She got disqualified in the 100 fly. One of the goals was to make sure we don’t get disqualified in it. But she came in and swam well, and showed herself proud and showed her school proud too.”
Kelly also picked up a top-10 in an individual event, as she took ninth place in the 100 free.
Her time of 59.75 seconds was the first time she had ever broken one minute in the event.
“She’s been trying for years to get under that, and she finally did it here,” Seidenberg said. “It’s good for her, because she just feels good about swimming and doing well.”
Rogers, Kelly, Yu and Smith also teamed up in the 200 medley relay and the 200 free relay, taking ninth and 10th place in the two events, respectively.
“The girls have been here before,” Seidenberg said. “A lot of the girls swim in other meets during the season for other places, too, so they pretty much get used to swimming in a big event with a lot of people. They can focus pretty well and get the job done.”
Vets also sent one swimmer to the meet, as junior Katie Evans scored 21 points on her own to lead the ’Canes to an 18th-place overall finish.
Evans racked up her points in two events. First, she swam a time of 1:04.43 in the 100 butterfly to take fourth place in the state. In the 500 free, Evans’ time of 5:48.86 was enough for 11th place.
No girls from Pilgrim competed in the event.
Bailer paces Toll Gate boys
Toll Gate’s Will Bailer and Zachary Arts both qualified for the meet as individuals, as the Titans finished in 21st place with 20 total points.
Bailer scored all of the team’s points. He came in fifth place in the 200 free with a time of 1:55.67, and also took 11th place in the 100 free with a time of 52.70 seconds.
Arts did not score, as he came in 24th in the 50 free and 29th in the 100 free.