Tby Thomas Daly ’18
The Chaminade swimming and diving team competed in the three-day CHSAA City Championships on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, February 9-11. In spite of the length of this ultimate contest, the championship would not be decided until the final leg of the final race was complete – literally.
Throughout the regular dual-meet season, the team had been improving and building camaraderie, cruising through its first five meets. At home on January 10, the team suffered its only loss of the season to St. Anthony’s, as the Flyers were beat by a hefty score of 110-71. From this meet on, however, the team was determined to win. Roughly one month later, they were still heavy underdogs to take home a title, but in the last two dual meets of the season, Chaminade beat Xavier High School and then had an exciting win over the defending state champs, Fordham Prep, by a score of 96-90. This meet came down to the last four events, just as the city title meet would about two weeks later.
Frankie Genna ’21 reflected on the dual-meet season, specifically on the growth of the team towards its ultimate goal of winning it all: “As a freshman, being part of this team was really something to remember. As the season went on, we became more like a family than a team. It was truly a special experience, and I’m glad all our work together paid off at the end.” Genna finished 11th in the 50-yard freestyle at championships.
St. Anthony’s was the favorite heading into the big weekend. After a loss at last year’s championship, the team easily swam to an undefeated dual-meet season. But the underdog Flyers quickly proved themselves in the diving events on Friday night at Fordham Prep. James Galante ’19 and Nicholas Morales ’18 finished fourth and seventh, respectively. Along with Liam Furlong ’18 and Michael Sweeney ’18, the divers earned Chaminade 64 points. This put the team in second place, behind Fordham Prep’s score of 79, and ahead of St. Anthony’s, who had landed in third place with 15 points.
Headed into championships, the team was ready to “let it rip,” as Head Coach Angelo Pellicone ’91 would often say during practice. The purpose of the Saturday night trials was to qualify for the finals the next day. Points could only be scored while swimming in the finals, which consisted of three heats of eight swimmers each. Each team was allowed four “point scorers” to compete in finals in the eight individual events, as well as one relay per team in the 200-yard medley, 200-yard freestyle, and 400-yard freestyle. Chaminade had to swim well to qualify for the top heat of eight swimmers or the second heat of eight swimmers.
After a successful day of trials, the stage was set for a showdown between Chaminade and Fordham Prep in the Sunday finals. St. Anthony’s trials had not gone as they would have liked, and they would have to swim extremely well to win the title the next day.
Through the first seven events, Chaminade and Fordham Prep went back and forth fighting for points.
Kyle Cornish ’20, who finished fifth in the 100-yard butterfly for the Flyers, said, “I knew that my team was counting on me. I knew that I needed to swim the fastest that I have ever swam to get into that top five. We needed every point we could possibly get, and I planned on competing for as many as possible for the team.”
The championship came down to the final four events, just as it had in the dual meet against Fordham Prep earlier in the season. The 200-yard freestyle relay team of Anthony Melchore ’19, William Takes ’18, Ryan Shannon ’21, and Christian Sztolcman ’18 was able to capture a first-place finish, making up eight points on Fordham. Next, the 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard breaststroke swimmers had to do their parts. Led by Nathaniel DeGuzman ’18, who finished fourth in the 100-yard backstroke, and Nikolas Daly ’19, who finished second in the 100-yard breaststroke, the other six point scorers were also able to gain a total of nine points on Fordham, putting the Flyers two-and-a-half points ahead.
Andrew Sallusto ’19, who was one of those breaststroke point scorers, finished sixth in finals.
“We depended on each other; we trusted that the teammate swimming next to us during practice wanted to win just as much as we did,” explained Sallusto. “We had competed among ourselves for months, and were ready to compete against our opponents when it mattered most.”
The fate of the meet between Chaminade and Fordham was decided by the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay. The Flyers were seeded into an outside lane, and the team needed to perform exceptionally well against Fordham’s top-seeded relay team. The Chaminade team consisted of Nicholas Shopis ’21, Takes, Melchore, and Sztolcman.
Both St. Anthony’s and Fordham jumped out early over Shopis. Takes was able to track them down, and Melchore held his ground.
It was then up to Christian Sztolcman to bring it home for the Flyers, and bring it home he did. The Flyers were ecstatic after the finish, celebrating on the deck of the pool for a second straight year.
Reflecting on the weekend and his notable race at the end, Sztolcman expressed how proud he was in himself and the team: “We knew before finals started Sunday afternoon that things would be close,” he said. “In the 200-yard freestyle relay, my teammates did well and gave me a lead before I entered as the last leg…. when I looked before I entered the water, I knew I would have to give my all for the team, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the other Chaminade guys cheering me on.”
By securing first place in the relay, Chaminade won the meet, scoring a total of 778 points. Fordham finished a close second with 769.5 points, and St. Anthony’s team finished third with 720.
As the seniors on the team put their high-school careers in the pool behind them, they are able to look back with pride on the consecutive championships they earned as upperclassmen. As for the current upperclassmen, they approach next season with one thing on their minds – the goal of a three-peat.