When Todd Larkin took over as the head coach of the St. Xavier High School swimming and diving program, the thought of matching the national record for consecutive state championships was only a dream.
Eight years later, Larkin and his Tigers are on the brink of history.
St. X enters this week’s State Swimming and Diving Championships as the favorite to take home its 29th straight title. That would match the national boys record also held by Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou (1958-86) and Jacksonville (Florida) Bolles (1988-2016).
“Eight years ago, I was familiar with the streak and where you are and where you stand,” Larkin said. “It’s tradition here. It’s something that is a priority. The boys take a lot of pride in it. There’s no denying that.
“But our job as coaches is to get them focused on the now. You have to swim fast in the present before you can start talking about history and streaks.”
The state meet is set for Thursday-Saturday at the University of Louisville’s Ralph Wright Natatorium, with diving preliminaries Thursday, swimming prelims Friday and finals on Saturday (boys at 11 a.m., girls at 5:15 p.m.).
Here’s a brief preview of both meets:
St. X doesn’t have a No. 1 seed in any of the 12 events – based on regional times – but will use its depth to accumulate plenty of points.
Along with being a threat in all three relay races, St. X will be led by seniors Keefer Barnum and Martin Nitzken and juniors Aldan Johnston and Michael Eastman.
Barnum, who has signed with the University of Virginia, is seeded No. 4 in the 100-yard breaststroke and No. 11 in the 200 individual medley. Nitzken (No. 4 seed in the 100 backstroke, No. 5 in the 200 IM), Johnston (No. 3 in the 200 free, No. 7 in the 500 free) and Eastman (No. 4 in the 50 free, No. 5 in the 100 free) are capable of winning their races.
“We’re ready to roll,” Larkin said. “We’re expecting our team to come out strong. This is the date they circle on their calendars every year, something they start talking about in August. The time is right now. They have a great opportunity.”
Covington Catholic and Lexington Catholic look to be St. Xavier’s top competition for the team title.
Covington Catholic is led by senior Nick Smith, a University of Kentucky signee who is the top seed in the 200 and 500 frees.
Lexington Catholic features Zach Hils, who is ranked as the state’s top sophomore by collegeswimming.com and is the top seed in the 100 free and 200 IM.
Christian Academy senior Nicolas Albiero, a U of L signee, is the top seed in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke.
Sacred Heart is shooting for its fifth straight state title but could get a challenge from Notre Dame.
The Valkyries are led by senior Brooke Forde and junior Tonner DeBeer. Forde, a Stanford University signee, is the top seed in the 200 and 500 frees. DeBeer is seeded No. 1 in the 100 butterfly and No. 2 in the 100 backstroke.
Notre Dame has a three No. 1 seeds in seniors Samantha Glass (200 IM) and Amanda Smith (100 backstroke) and junior Sophie Skinner (100 free).
Collegiate junior Kaylee Wheeler is the top seed in the 100 breaststroke.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com.
STATE SWIMMING AND DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS
* When: Thursday-Saturday.
* Where: University of Louisville’s Ralph Wright Natatorium.
* Tickets: $10 per session.
* Thursday’s schedule: Boys diving preliminaries, 12:30 p.m.; girls diving preliminaries, 6:30 p.m.
* Friday’s schedule: Boys swimming preliminaries, 10 a.m.; girls swimming preliminaries, 4:30 p.m.
* Saturday’s schedule: Boys finals, 11 a.m.; girls finals, 5:15 p.m.