They maximized their potential, and reached a lot of goals.
The Irish did so with a team of dedicated, multi-talented athletes – and as swimming coach Ashley Hill saw it, that made the 2019-2020 Cathedral High School boys swimming season a success.
“We were more successful than many would have expected,” Hill said.
The Irish, competing with mostly multiple-sport athletes who weren’t full-time high school swimmers, not only won the City Championship in 2019-2020, they also turned in a solid sectional meet and met many of their preseason goals.
“The city championship was just an early indicator that this group was going to be special, that they were going to be able to achieve more together than they thought they were going to be able to,” Hill said. “It gave them a little more faith in themselves and each other.”
Irish boys swimming in 2019-2020 featured two three-sport athletes, six two-sport athletes, a swimmer who also participated in marching band and another who is involved in the prestigious “We the People” program.
“This was a great group of guys,” Hill said. “That was the great part to watch, was how well they got along and fed off one another – from everything from how to work hard and how to have fun. I think it really came together for them.
“We were slated to be Top 3 in the city, but I don’t think anybody thought we were going to be first.”
The ’19-’20 Irish were led by a strong five-swimmer senior class that included:
*Sam Vander Missen, a football/lacrosse athlete before sustaining a back fracture. He won the 100-yard breaststroke in the city meet as a senior, then finished 11th at the sectional in the event with a lifetime best 1:06.68. He swam on all three relay teams. “He really became a leader the last two years in our program,” Hill said. “He had a team-first attitude and helped others understand it.”
*Justin Pugh. A varsity soccer player who finished eighth in the 100 breaststroke at sectional in 1:05.49, Pugh also finished 13th at the sectional in the 100 freestyle in 53:18. He was the Irish’s only podium finisher at sectional. “He’s just a workhorse and really set the tone for the team in terms of what it means to practice hard all the time,” Hill said.
*Emmett Williams. A first-time swimmer in ’20, Williams previously competed in soccer and rugby and finished 11th in the sectional in the 50 free in 23.88 and 11th in the 100 free in 53.03.
*Jair Zenil. A four-year swimmer, he swam at middle distances and was one of the Irish’s more versatile swimmers.
*Tim Sullivan. Also a four-year swimmer, he was a key contributor and also is a member of the “We the People” team that will compete in the national competition at that event.
Three juniors also had solid seasons, including: Michael Carnes, who finished 13th at the sectional in the 50 free in 24.10; Jake Carlson, the Irish’s fastest swimmer until late-season shoulder surgery kept him out of the sectionals; and Nate Hillenburg, who swam in his first sectional in 2019-2020.
Sophomore Max Timberman finished 10th at the sectional in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:12.56, also finishing 10th in the 100 backstroke in 1:02.10 and winning the 100 back in the city meet. Sophomore Nolan Clark finished 11th at the sectional in the 100 butterfly in 1:00.35, also finishing 13th in the 500 free in 5:35.04. Clark also won the 500 free at the city.
“He really started to understand what it means to put team first,” Hill said of Clark, adding of Timberman, “Max this year really started to figure out that he’s a very good water athlete.”
Freshman Ayden Fahey finished 16th at the sectional in the 100 free in 54.09, also finishing 13th in the 100 breaststroke in 1:09.34.
“He’s a kid who can do anything for us and swam every event,” he said.
The boys 200 relay team of Timberman, Vander Missen, Clark and Carnes finished eighth at the sectional in 1:48.17, with the 200 free relay team of Vander Missen, Pugh, Williams and Carnes finishing fifth in 1:35.58. The boys 400 free relay team of Carnes, Williams, Fahey and Pugh finished seventh at sectional in 3:36.17.
Also key for the Irish boys were sophomores Ian Green, Oskar Horn, Josh Zenil and freshmen Ben Dravis and Andrew Michael.
“It really is a student-driven program, where they sit down and they talk about, ‘What are the meets we think we can go get? What do we want to do here? What are the things we want to accomplish as a team?’ ’’ Hill said. “I think that makes it more rewarding or them – and fun to watch. This team definitely met its goals.”