Reds Hucht isn't ready to send up the white flag of surrender, but he does claim his Calvert Hall swimming team is "hurting."
Calvert Hall and Loyola have dominated Maryland Scholastic Association swimming for 30 years. The last school other than one of them to win the MSA championship was Mount St. Joseph in 1964.
The Cardinals have ruled the past three years, capturing five of six dual meets against Loyola and three MSA championships. They piled up 383 points in last year's championship meet to runner-up Loyola's 189.
Yet Hucht can support his "hurting" claim. He lost four prep All-Americas in Brad Francis, Justin Werner, Adam Blake and Brian Brandt. Combined, they won five individual titles in the championship meet and helped win two relays.
"When you lose that much," Hucht said, "you're hurting. We'll never be as good as last year."
The Hall's leading returnee is Kevin Gass, who won the MSA 200-yard freestyle title. Captain Ryan Horner, Matt Conrad, Matt Fouse and Andy Dixon all placed in the top three in at least one event.
Hucht is having difficulty getting all the swimmers to do his bidding. They won't work hard enough, he says. The Hall's swimming alumni return to watch practice and say, "Gee, Coach, you're getting easy on them."
He's not, he says. True, the workouts are easier, but only because the swimmers won't do them with intensity. Two or three will, but the rest go through the motions.
"I used to tell them to get in and do it," Hucht said. "Now I have to reward or punish to get the work done. Like, 'If you don't do this, you'll have to do it over again.' In the past, I just had to lead them. Now I have to drive them."
Calvert Hall's first meet with Loyola is Jan. 12, the second Feb. 2. The 70th annual MSA championships are Feb. 15-16.
"Loyola has quality, but I don't know about quantity," Hucht said. "Right now, I'd say they're the favorite."
Loyola coach Murray Stephens doesn't necessarily agree. He calls Calvert Hall the team to beat -- "I think."
Of Loyola's 14 swimmers, seven are seniors and six are freshmen or sophomores. The only junior is free-styler B. J. Brannan.
"We'll try to finish the season strong with this senior group and bring the ninth- and 10th-graders along," Stephens said.
Loyola's leading swimmers are seniors Paul Yetter, who won the breaststroke and 500 freestyle in last season's championship meet; Troy Pusateri, second in the 200 freestyle; and Chris Kaplan, third in both the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke.
Freshman diver Jeff Harrison, a two-time MSA JV champion, "has a chance," Stephens said, to become a four-time varsity champion.
"We're improved from last season, especially the younger people," Stephens said. "We have a reasonably strong freshmen class. Some of our people are beginning to show the maturity necessary to take a look at a potential MSA championship."
In last year's championship meet, Calvert Hall and Loyola were followed in the A Conference by Gilman and Mount St. Joe. In the Loyola-Mount St. Joe dual meet, the Gaels lost by only four points after being edged in the last relay by a half-second.
Mount St. Joe coach Anita Benedictis also considers it a good sign that her JV beat Loyola's. The schools will meet twice, Jan. 19 and Feb. 8.
The Gaels were hit hard by graduation, losing 10 swimmers. They also lost P. J. Frappaolo, who died in a car accident this fall. The heart of the team consists of freshman Paul Tignor, sophomore Pat McGonigal, junior D. J. Heller and senior Ricky Webb.
Based on last season, the strongest B Conference teams are McDonogh, City, Severn and Spalding. McDonogh and Severn tied for the regular-season title after finishing with 7-1 records and splitting their two dual meets.
"Our outlook is good, although we're a few swimmers short," said McDonogh coach Scott Ward. "We had 18 on the varsity last season, and only 14 now. But the quality of the 14 is better than our top 14 last year."
McDonogh's aces are sophomore Brett Rubin, who won the B Conference 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke, and senior Sarah Folkemer, who was third in the 100 butterfly.
Severn leads with Joan Chidester, a prep All-America the past two years. She had two seconds in the B Conference championship meet, in the 200 IM and 100 freestyle. Tim Libby, Gene Youn and Tim Freeman also contribute.
"We're shooting for the championship again, or a piece of it," Severn coach Tom Heslin said. "We had a good rivalry with
McDonogh. After losing to them in the first meet, we won seven straight, beating them the second time in a meet that went down to the last relay."
In the C Conference, Lake Clifton, Patterson and Southern finished 1-2-3.
Lake Clifton is relying on Richard Matthews in the butterfly, Kenneth Williams in the freestyle sprints, Keith Johnson in the IM and backstroke and Marcus Brown in the 200 and 500 freestyles.
"It hurt that we lost four seniors, so we won't be as good," said Lakers coach Kim Williams. "But I expect we'll be competitive and right there with perennial contenders Patterson and Southern."
Patterson's best swimmer came to coach Bob Abt from Lithuania. In his third year, senior Andrius Vaitiekus is coming off a season in which he won the C Conference 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke and swam the backstroke leg on the winning 200 medley relay. His 1:14.5 in the 100 backstroke is a school record.
Sophomore Mike Jaski does a little of everything for Patterson. He's the best diver in the C Conference, picks up points in swimming events and is the place-kicker on the city 4A championship football team.
Longtime Southern coach Kate Scheminant was encouraged by her team's victory over Southwestern in this week's opener. The small (10-man) squad is loaded with freshmen and bereft of juniors and seniors.