When it comes to dynasties in Kentucky high school sports, no program can touch the St. Xavier swimming and diving team.
The Tigers have won 49 state championships, ranking first according to the National Federation of High Schools. They’ve also won 25 consecutive titles, approaching the national mark of 29 set by Honolulu Punahou from 1958-86.
But for the first time in a long time, that streak will be tested when the State Swimming and Diving Championships are held Thursday through Saturday at the University of Louisville’s Ralph Wright Natatorium.
St. X coach Todd Larkin and Covington Catholic coach Richard Dickmann agreed the teams are very close based on times at their respective regional meets.
“This is the closest the meet has been for us against them going into it,” Dickmann said. “Still, you have to go through the process of swimming the meet. But I feel comfortable with our position and confident our swimmers have better swims in them than they had in the regionals.”
Larkin said it’s impossible to ignore the streak but said it hasn’t become a burden for his team.
“I don’t think our guys have ever taken it as pressure,” Larkin said. “There will be pressure on both sides of the fence this weekend. Who’s going to deal better with the pressure is what it’s going to come down to. But we definitely have a target on us, for sure.”
Preliminaries will be Thursday and Friday, with Saturday’s finals slated for 10 a.m. (boys) and 4:15 p.m. (girls).
Here’s a look at both meets:
St. X and Covington Catholic both have just one top seed, but their depth will make them the top two contenders for the team title.
St. X junior Heyward Harrison is No. 1 in the 200-yard individual medley. Covington Catholic’s 200 medley relay team is seeded No. 1.
CovCath’s Chase Vennefron, who has signed with Minnesota, is seeded No. 2 in the 100 breaststroke and No. 3 in the 200 IM.
“There’s always a ton of talent up there in that region … and we know how good they are,” Larkin said of CovCath. “We don’t take anybody for granted.”
Larkin’s squad took a hit with two disqualifications in the regional meet, but he believes his team has handled that adversity well.
“It wasn’t a performance we were proud of at the regionals,” he said. “We had to make a decision whether to stay there or regroup. I’m impressed with the way they’ve conditioned themselves the last two weeks.”
Collegiate and Ballard also have state-title contenders this weekend.
Collegiate senior Tyler Sullivan is seeded No. 1 in the 200 and 500 freestyle and also is a member of the Titans’ top-seeded 200 and 400 free-relay teams.
Ballard has top seeds in senior Todd Owen (100 breaststroke) and junior Branson Smith (100 free).
Whereas the boys’ meet is likely to be tight, the girls’ competition is expected to be a runaway for Sacred Heart.
The Valkyries, who have won three of the past four state titles and a record 24 overall, have top seeds in seven of 12 events and No. 2 seeds in three others.
Valkyries coach Jim Luebbe believes his team has the opportunity to go down as one of the best in state history.
In fact, he’s hoping to catch both Carmel (Ind.) and Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles for a No. 1 national ranking by the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association.
“We have an outside chance to catch them, but we’ll have to have the meet of our lifetime to do that,” said Luebbe, whose team finished No. 8 in the national rankings last year. “But to finish in the top three is definitely doable … and would show how special of a team this is.”
Sacred Heart is seeded No. 1 in all three relays and also has top-seeded individuals in junior Leah Stevens (500 free) and sophomores Asia Seidt (200 IM, 100 backstroke) and Kennedy Lohman (100 breaststroke).
Manual junior Monica McGrath (200 free) and North Oldham sophomore Grace Oglesby (100 butterfly) are top seeds in their events.