This season will be remembered fondly.
Not that there weren’t obstacles and adversity for Cathedral High School boys swimming 2020-2021. But even though the Irish faced both, the team finished strong and reached significant goals.
Considering the circumstances, that mattered a lot.
“Our seniors really stepped up,” Cathedral swimming coach Ashley Hill said.
The Irish boys, led by the senior class, won the City Meet. They then turned in a strong performance at the Section 14 meet by finishing fifth with 170 points – behind perennial powers North Central (464), Franklin Central (456), Lawrence North (316) and Warren Central (184).
The Irish edged Roncalli (160 points) for fifth place.
“We only ended up 13 points behind Warren Central,” Hill said. “This group of guys nickeled and dimed all day long as a team not only to be the top school in the section without a pool but to almost knock off one of the perennial powerhouses in our section, which is kind of neat to see.”
A look at the Irish in the sectional:
*Junior Max Timberman finished eighth in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:55.50, also finishing 14th in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 1:01.84.
*Junior Nolan Clark finished eighth in the 100-yard butterfly in 57.43, also finishing 15th in the 500-yard freestyle in 5:51.85.
*Senior three-year swimmer Michael Carnes finished ninth in the 50-yard freestyle in 23:14, also finishing ninth in the 100-yard freestyle in 51.75.
*Sophomore Ayden Fahey finished 10th in the 100-yard freestyle in 52.39, also finishing 10th in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:05.42.
*Senior Gabe Keltner finished 11th in the 50-yard freestyle in 23.64.
*Junior Parker Spellacy finished 12th in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 1:01.14.
*Senior three-year swimmer Jacob Carlson finished 13th in the 100-yard backstroke in 1:01.23.
*Senior Ben Hanchar finished 13th in the 50-yard freestyle in 23.73.
*Sophomore Andrew Michael finished 14th in the 200-yard individual medley in 2:20.53.
*Sophomore Ben Dravis finished 16th in the 200-yard freestyle in 2:13.32.
The Irish’s 200-yard medley relay team of Spellacy, Fahey, Clark and Carlson finished fifth in the sectional with a time of 1:45.34 and the 200-yard freestyle relay team of Carnes, Spellacy, Timberman and Carlson finished fifth in 1:33.82.
The 400-yard freestyle relay team of Carnes, Timberman, Fahey and Carlson finished third in 3:29.95 – and that third-place finish in the meet finale was perhaps the season’s high point.
“Not only did we beat Roncalli, we beat Warren Central and Lawrence North,” Hill said. “That just doesn’t happen very often. It was pretty cool and it was a team effort. You look into the crowd and their teammates are yelling and cheering and screaming. That was an awesome swim by the boys, but it was a culmination of what they wanted to do.”
The 400 relay team dropped 6.2 seconds from the preliminary round to the final.
“It’s the four big schools and there’s the rest of us battling for fifth,” Hill said. “Roncalli is a talented team. We were bouncing back and forth and we kind of laid it out going into the long relay.”
Another high point of the sectional came when Keltner beat Lawrence North junior Alexander Long, 24.04-24.78, in a preliminary-round swim-off to qualify for the 50 free final.
“Gabe gets up there and he just crushes it,” Hill said. “All of his teammates got behind him, walking him down to the deck, firing him up. You would have thought he won an Olympic gold the way his teammates were cheering. He swam even faster Saturday, which was cool. That was a cool team moment.”
Added Hill, “They had some very specific goals they wanted to reach as a team, and it kind of culminated in those two races.”
The sectional was a fitting end to a season in which the Irish overcame similar adversity to that faced by most Indiana high school teams, with practice schedules altered by COVID-19 and with swimmers missing time at times because of contact tracing.
“They stayed together all year,” Hill said. “They were willing to compete and sacrifice for each other. They were willing to take some events that were uncomfortable. To see them compete with the fastest club swimmers and do really well was awesome. It’s a testament to what these kids are willing to do for these four months.”
And Hill said despite the loss of multiple seniors, the future looks “really good going forward.”
“Our senior leadership has done a great job setting the table for the future,” she said. “It’s inherent to what we do at Cathedral to build leadership in our programs and activities that our kids lead the way and pass the torch.
“We’ve got some really good juniors and really good freshman and some solid sophomores. They’re exited. Everybody kind of left sectionals happy. The youngsters were already talking about a year from now and what they want to do. Our future is bright.”