This was more than a swimming meet. It was a dedication to a woman dying of cancer.
When Calvert Hall sophomore Brian Brandt visited his mother, Ann, in the hospital Monday, she asked that he focus on the Cardinals' dual meet rematch with Loyola yesterday.
"They don't give her too much longer," Brandt said. "One of her last wishes was that we win this meet and the MSAs. She told me that whatever happened, she wanted me to swim."
Calvert Hall coach Reds Hucht told his swimmers that the meet would be dedicated to Brandt's mother. Another son, Kevin, also had swum for Calvert Hall and it was Ann Brandt who was a nurse on duty in the hospital when Hucht suffered a broken hip five or six years ago.
"She's been very supportive of swimming," Hucht said. "She came to the pool once and gave me a CPR test, which coaches have to take these days."
Properly psyched, Brandt and Calvert Hall crushed Loyola, 113-73, with the same ease that the Cardinals won the first dual encounter, 106-78. This is the first year since 1983 that the Hall has beaten Loyola in a dual meet.
Brandt won the 100-yard freestyle, finished second in the 50 free and swam on two winning relays, anchoring the 200 free and leading off the 400 freestyle.
"We did it for Mom," Brandt said. "I was a little tired, because I had been out of the pool for three days, visiting her, but everyone else was psyched. I missed school Monday and Tuesday and I'll probably miss the rest of the week, too."
In the eight-year dry spell between victories over Loyola and its coach, Murray Stephens, Hucht never stopped trying to build from the bottom, with his JVs. Hucht can't remember the last time his JV team lost.
"We just hung in there during the lean years and built the JV," Hucht said. "It's particularly gratifying to see those kids move up to the varsity. This time we have quality as well as quantity, which hurt Murray."
Stephens suspected it would be Calvert Hall's turn again. He lost five seniors from last year's team that beat Calvert Hall by a total of 44 points in the two dual meets and swept the MSA Championships by 56 points over the runner-up Cardinals.
Aside from three-time MSA champion diver Mike Tamberino, Loyola has no seniors on the squad. Stephens says he has "had that hole in Mike's class all along;" it's not as if there had been defections. With three freshmen, two sophomores and three juniors, Stephens is four swimmers short of being able to fill out a complete lineup.
Calvert Hall led from start to finish, from the moment Mark Gabriele gave the Cardinals a lead on the opening leg of the first event, the 200 medley relay, until he anchored the final 400 freestyle relay.
Gabriele, who has been swimming under Hucht since he was 6 years old, is the Hall's senior captain. As he did in the first dual meet with Loyola, he captured two individual events, the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly, in addition to swimming on a pair of relays.
This year, at least, Gabriele has saved his best for Loyola. He trimmed his best time in the 200 IM two seconds to 1:56 in the first dual and to 1:54.35 yesterday.
Next for Calvert Hall and Loyola are the National Catholic Championships Saturday and Sunday in Philadelphia, followed by the MSA Championship finals next Wednesday at Johns Hopkins.