By Michael Ledecky ‘12, Managing Editor; Photography by Will Speros
Gonzaga Swimming and Diving has snapped its three-year championship drought in historic fashion.
The team accumulated 531.5 points in a dominating victory over rivals Good Counsel, DeMatha, and Georgetown Prep to capture the Washington Metropolitan Prep School Swimming and Diving League Championship. The team’s record point total surpassed the mark of 482.5 set by Gonzaga in 2003.
A day after Thomas Fergus (4th), Connor Fitzgerald (7th), Jack Joyce (10th) and Wyatt Dillon (11th) scored more points (40) than any other Gonzaga dive squad in history, the Gonzaga swimmers dominated the preliminary heats. The 200 freestyle relay of Paul O’Hara, Nick Knise, Torey Ortmayer, and Sean Sullivan bested the Georgetown Prep pool record, and numerous swimmers, such as senior Bryan Marquet, improved on their seeded positions to qualify for finals.
Gonzaga ratcheted up the pace at finals. Timmy Barry, Sean Spata, Sean Sullivan, and Nick Knise won the first event of the night with a time of 1:37.64 in the 200 medley relay.
In the 200 freestyle, junior Madison Hardimon dropped four seconds from prelims to finish third in 1:44.76, and sophomore Paul O’Hara placed third in the 200 IM with a time of 1:59.09.
The Gonzaga sprinters once again proved their dominance in the 50 freestyle. Sean Sullivan (21.12), Nick Knise (21.66), and Torey Ortmayer (22.13) swept first through third place in the championship heat.
After sustaining a gruesome cut on his heel during warm-up, a bandaged senior Xavier Pugliese captured first place in the 500 freestyle (4:48.23).
“I knew I had a chance to be a WMPSSDL champion,” said Pugliese. “I just took the race out fast and held on. I didn’t think about my foot.”
Paul O’Hara followed Pugliese in the 500 with a time of 4:51.89, and the swimmers produced more points (63) in the 500 freestyle than in any other event for Gonzaga as the Eagles placed 1st-2nd-4th-8th.
The 200 freestyle relay improved on their time from prelims to capture first place in a blazing time of 1:26.89.
In the backstroke, Timmy Barry placed 3rd (54.64), and Sean Spata led the Gonzaga breaststrokers with a 4th-place finish in 1:01.64.
The 400 freestyle relay of Paul O’Hara, Madison Hardimon, Billy Cowden, and Sean Spata concluded the night with yet another victory.
Boosted by personal-best performances and an overwhelming cheering section, each team member significantly contributed to the victory. A meet-record eleven Gonzaga swimmers scored twenty or more points in individual events: Sean Sullivan (35), Xavier Pugliese (33), Madison Hardimon (33), Paul O’Hara (33), Nick Knise (30), Daniel Tarbrake (29), Andrew Valentine (29), Sean Spata (26), Timmy Barry (23), Michael Ledecky (22), and Billy Cowden (22). Xavier Pugliese, Sean Sullivan, Madison Hardimon, and Paul O’Hara were named to the All-League Team for their efforts.
The championship also marks the first under the direction of Coach Dave Norton, who had received Coach of the Meet honors at the National Catholics championship meet a week before the victory.
After the officials announced the scores, the Gonzaga swimmers and divers swarmed around the WMPSSDL cup, proudly sang the Alma Mater, and took a victory plunge into the pool for the first time in three years.