Of the few sure things in life, these three are known: death, taxes and Jesuit swimming.
Every fall, talk around the local aquatics community begins to circulate about the Blue Jays and how good they are (or can be.) To the surprise of very few, this year’s Jesuit boys swim team is good — very, very good.
How good? Well, that remains to be seen, given that the three most important meets they’ll swim this year are upcoming: the District 9-5A meet on Oct. 22, the Greater New Orleans High School Metro Swim Championships on Nov. 1, and the Division I state meet on Nov. 22 in Sulphur.
But the Blue Jays will be heavy favorites in at least two of these three meets; the sole exception being state, where they are expected to duke it out again with fellow Division I power Catholic of Baton Rouge.
But the times this year show Jesuit team is in prime position to make some noise in this year’s championship triumvirate.
To point: four of the top eight boys individual times in the New Orleans area belong to Jesuit: Chris Simmons in the 50-yard freestyle in 21.76 seconds, and the 100 free in 48.66; and Michael Conrad in the 200 free in 1:48.74, and the 500 free in 4:52:14. Both are seniors and are part of a seasoned group that knows about victory as well as the taste of finishing as runners-up. Other Jesuit swimmers have top-three times in the metro area.
What’s different this year? The team captains (seniors Simmons, Francis Plough, and Sam Johnson) point to team unity and strength from top to bottom.
“I’d just like to see as many of us qualify for metro and state as possible,” Johnson said. “We’re focused on times. Sometimes we feel those eyes glare down on us (expecting only big things).
“It’s just something you deal with and go about your business.”
Plough said after finishing second to Catholic at state last year (463.5 points to 301 points,) the Blue Jays “at least want to close that (gap) down to double digits; to be a lot closer.”
“I feel this team is generally closer,” he said. “Swimming is thought of as an individual thing, but prep swimming is really more about team than an individual thing. Everyone has to commit. Some people may have to swim events they may not be used to swimming. ... So this is about getting as many times as we can and then putting the puzzle pieces together.”
The job of putting those pieces together for the past 20 years has gone to coach Bret Hanemann. After guiding the program to numerous state championships, he sees similarities between this group and other winners in the past.
“The difference is that we’re kind of split being top-heavy and bottom-heavy this year,” he said. “There are a lot of seniors, and a lot of new and talented kids coming in. But these guys come in with the same goal every year.
“They want to do the best they can. They’re coming off a tough year, and Catholic didn’t lose a lot. So we’re in a similar situation as last year.”
Hanemann said the senior experience should help his team, however, in the “big three events.”
“I’ve always allowed the seniors on the team a lot of control,” he said. “They take a pride in ownership over the team. You see it when they get out and make others work on turns, things like that. I’m the coach, but they are the ones who pass on the tradition of this team each year.”
Simmons, among the fastest sprinters in the state, said he’s happy to help lead Jesuit to whatever may come in the next five weeks.
“I’m looking to drop a second or two in both of my main events,” he said. “As a team, we’re all focused on dropping time. If we do that, I think we have a good shot to do good things in November.”