When the Allstate Sugar Bowl Metro New Orleans High School Swim Championships were held on Oct. 30-31, it was anyone’s guess who would win the girls’ title.
Would it be Mandeville? Or Dominican? And what about Mount Carmel? Could it even be Division II stalwart St. Scholastica beating each of the three previously mentioned Division I powers.
In the end, Mandeville was the victor by the slender margin of 14 points. In swimming terms, that’s like an NFL game being won in overtime on a long-distance field goal. The other contenders for the title were bunched up toward the top and separated by only 54 points.
As competitive as that Metro meet was, the state meet isn’t necessarily expected to be as close. That’s because all of the top New Orleans area teams in Division I will be competing against St. Joseph’s of Baton Rouge, which last year won the Division. I state title by more than 100 points over second-place Mandeville.
St. Joseph’s is talented again and will be a contender for yet another state title.
Nevertheless, there is the sense that no New Orleans area team is conceding a championship heading into the meet which begins with preliminary races on Nov. 20 in Sulphur.
“You know St. Joe’s is going to have four people in every event (in prelims) and those girls are going to come back and swim the next day,” Dominican coach Bret Hanemann said. “That’s how good they are. For us, with a smaller team, I can’t go four deep and expect everyone to be able to come back. But a lot of our girls have been there before. They know about the environment and the quality of the swim. They know what this is all about.”
Bob Handley, coach of Catholic League rival Mount Carmel, said his team knows what it takes to win, as well.
“You swim locally against teams like Mandeville and SSA and Dominican and there’s a lot to be said about that,” Handley said. “It’s exciting. It’s what you want. You just want to be competitive. You want the kids to swim as best as they can, to do well. That’s the idea. That’s the success.”
Mandeville coach Robbie Fritscher said beating St. Joseph’s is a tremendously tall order, but like Hanemann and Handley, he’s more interested in how his swimmers perform individually and as teammates at state.
“I just want them to swim to the best of their capabilities,” Fritscher said. “Every day, I ask them ‘Why are you here? What are we doing?’ It’s about being in the moment. … No matter what happens, this is the kind of team you want to coach. I’ve coached for 28 years, and this is a special team.”
In Division II, St. Scholastica figures to be in contention for its fifth consecutive state championship. Coach Chris Prator said this year’s team has done everything it has needed to do to put itself in the running.
“This team has done everything I’ve asked them to do in the biggest meets of the year,” Prator said. “I have no doubt they’ll do the same thing at state. I’m quietly confident we can make it five (titles) in a row.”