SHREVEPORT — Many things about the 2020 high school swimming season were different, thanks to two hurricanes and a pandemic.
Even though the site was new, the Division I hierarchy remained the same: St. Joseph’s Academy and Catholic High swept the team titles on the final day of the LHSAA State Swimming meet.
It was the 10th straight girls title for the Redstickers, while Catholic won its second in a row and sixth LHSAA title in eight years.
“Winning 10 in a row is huge. Everyone knows that 2020 was a rough season, and I am proud of every swimmer here,” SJA coach Ali Buchart said. “I know personally that our team overcame a lot. As a former SJA swimmer, it means a lot for me to be able to step up and coach them.”
Both local teams proved that football is not the only LHSAA sport prefaced on depth. The Redstickers had just one individual win — Amanda Andrews’ victory in the 100-yard butterfly.
But SJA piled up points with other place finishes and tallied a 280 total. Mandeville (227) edged C.E. Byrd (224) for the runner-up girls spot during the meet held Saturday at the YMCA of Northwest Louisiana. The YMCA was selected to host after two hurricanes damaged Sulphur's SPAR facility.
Catholic’s victory and team total of 459.5 points started with a win in the the 200 medley relay and ended with a new Division I/composite record of 3 minutes, 8.64 seconds in the 400 free relay. The Bears won six of the 11 boys events.
“We were good from the 200 medley relay all the way to the 400 free relay. Obviously, that 400 free relay and breaking the state record is a highlight,” Catholic coach Doug Logsdon said. “Our seniors did an amazing job.
“I am super-proud of this team. And I am truly happy for our seniors that they got a chance to compete here and they took full advantage of it. It was a great weekend overall for the Bears.”
The Bears took first and second-place finishes in three events — the 50 freestyle, 100 free and 500 free — and used depth to score early and often. Jesuit (346.5) and St. Paul’s (182) were next in the boys standings.
Catholic’s Mitchell Gillem won the 50 freestyle in an All-American consideration time of 20.74 seconds and was second in the 100 freestyle to teammate Garrett Accardo. Gillem shared Swimmer of the Meet honor with Jesuit’s Philip Endom, who was the lone double winner on the boys side.
East Ascension’s Brenton Cooper (100 butterfly) was the other local boys winner. Baton Rouge High's Ema Lavigne (100 breaststroke) was the other area girls winner.
“I was pleased about how my team swam and with how I swam. I am happy to end my senior season this way,” Gillem said. “I am proud to be a part of the team I am with.”
Fellow senior Stewart Black added, “We have been working for this all year, even when we did not know what state meet might look like. Our expectations were high, but we did not take anything for granted.”
The other story for SJA was Buchart filling in for head coach George Newport, who was sidelined by a bike accident. Buchart and the Redstickers kept Newport up to date via Facetime.
Andrews also finished second in the 50 freestyle for SJA. She summed her team's story by saying, “This wasn’t about me or any individual. It was about us together as a team.”