Last year’s New Orleans Metro Swim Championships were dominated by the Jesuit boys and Mandeville girls.
Both of those teams are strong candidates to repeat this season, when the metro meet is held Friday and Saturday at UNO.
But, as usual, there is a group of eager and willing teams looking to knock the reigning champs from their perches. They have their work cut out for them, however, if they want to approach the lofty heights those two powerhouses have reached in 2014.
Jesuit cruised in the District 9-5A Meet last week, outscoring Holy Cross by nearly 200 points. Mandeville had a tougher time with the girls from St. Scholastica in the Northlake Regional Championship on Oct. 21. The difference between the Skippers and three-time defending Division II state champion SSA was 432-390.
Still, both of last year’s Metro champs prevailed.
“Jesuit obviously has a much bigger and deeper team than we do,” said St. Paul’s Coach Bill Babcock. “But honestly, I think we have a lot of quality on this team.”
St. Paul’s is one of a handful of teams expected to mount a possible challenge against the Blue Jays. The Wolves finished second in the Northlake Regional and have been in this position before. Other teams looking to at least narrow the gap on Jesuit are Mandeville, Northshore, Brother Martin, Hahnville, E.D. White and Lusher.
“We may not have the numbers that other teams do, but when it comes to state and metro, there’s a qualifying time,” said Griffin Guzan, a junior at St. Paul’s who won two events at the Northlake Regional. “We all have those times. This meet in particular gave us confidence (that we can compete at metro.)”
Mandeville coach Robbie Fritscher said his team came away happy with a victory in the boys competition in the Northlake Regional.
“The boys are greatly improved this year,” he said. “My idea is to make Jesuit work for their victory (at metro).”
Mandeville’s top sprinter, senior Matt Senneff, agreed.
“We swam against one another in a dual meet in September, and they beat us pretty good,” Senneff said. “We’ve matured as the season has gone along. I think we can make the gap closer.”
Of course, the Blue Jays will have something to say about that. They showed no signs of slowing-down in their district meet, and coach Bret Hanemann said he has no current plans to taper his swimmers — meaning that the fast times Jesuit already has posted are bound to be seen again.
“Our personal goal is to do what we can to fill the gaps, and then get the points we need,” said Jesuit junior Cade Fuxan. “I think this team is very capable of winning state. I think we look forward to that opportunity, as opposed to fearing it.”
On paper, it may appear that the girls’ metro competition is wide open. That’s because St. Scholastica was on Mandeville’s heels in the Northlake Regional, and Northshore was not far behind either. Mount Carmel and Dominican (who finished a close 1-2 in the District 9-5A Meet,) figure to be equally tough opponents.
Fritscher said it’s all speculation until the girls get into the pool.
“I’ve heard a lot of talk about some teams challenging us,” Fritscher said. “But believe me, we’re excited. We’re focused on metros, and we’re coming in ready to swim well.”
Maddie McGraw, a standout swimmer who with two individual victories led Mount Carmel to a district title last week, said she realizes the challenges ahead. She’s ready, however, and thinks her teammates are too.
“It’ll be tough against Mandeville at the metro meet,” McGraw said. “They’re tough competition, for sure. We’ll just have to see what we can do.”
Preliminary metro events will be Friday and finals will be Saturday.
The Louisiana High School Athletic Association State Swimming Championships will be Nov. 19-22 in Sulphur.