John Knebels

Sports Columnist

The swimmers have heard the many jokes, and they are able to laugh at all of them because they are all complimentary.

Some say that Catholic League swimming should be separated into two leagues; one being La Salle, the other being all the rest. Others advise making a deal with a trophy store in which the Catholic League will receive a discount buying 10 plaques with the words “Catholic League champions – La Salle High School” engraved on the front. The only thing missing will be the year.

You are forgiven if you have a strong sense of déjà vu reading about La Salle’s latest swimming exploits. They occurred during the weekend of Feb. 5 and 6, and then again this past weekend.

After capturing their 23rd consecutive Catholic League championship two weeks earlier, the Explorers nabbed another Class AAA District title in somewhat dominating fashion.

“I’m sure other teams are sick of us winning, but we aren’t,” said junior Chris Szekely, who in districts placed second in the 500-meter freestyle and then anchored the 400-meter freestyle to victory. “When you swim year round, I think that gives you an advantage.”{{more}}

Most of La Salle’s swimmers train year round, but then again, so do many other teams in the Catholic League, and it showed in the district meet. After La Salle’s 601 points and St. Joseph’s Prep’s 466, only 65 points separated the third through sixth-place teams, and all of them finished with more than 296 points.

But La Salle, behind Szekely, Sean Regan, David Speese, Joe Maginnis and Eric Schultz, simply took control early and often.

“There is definitely a different feeling winning the Catholic League and winning districts,” Szekely said. “The districts are still (relatively) new for the Catholic League, but the league championship has been around a long time and is very established.”

Szekely echoed a familiar tune opined by his teammates and many former La Salle swimmers – they don’t want to be the team that is responsible for losing “the streak.”

“We don’t go in and take anything for granted,” said LaSalle coach Frank Lichtner, whose team failed to skip a beat despite what can be accurately described as a youth movement. “Every year is different. Every team is different.”

According to Szekely, La Salle’s coaches do not have to remind their young athletes to not take anything for granted.

“Not at all,” Szekely said. “We respect all of our opponents.{{more}}

There are some great swimmers in the Catholic League and great swimmers throughout the area. You have to swim your best every meet because on any given day, anyone can beat anyone.”

Bound for Bucknell
In the girls’ Catholic League championship, Archbishop Ryan defeated second-place Archbishop Wood, 653-519.

The Ragdolls are currently preparing to swim in the state championships March 15-19 at Bucknell University in Lewisburg. Look for future coverage in the CS&T on the Ragdolls, and other local swimmers representing the Archdiocese at the state meet.

John Knebels can be reached at