WATERFORD — It took some time for University of Detroit Jesuit to surface as Catholic League swimming and diving champions.
The process might have started six years ago, when Drew Edson became head coach. Or it might have started three years ago, when a talented senior class first joined the team as ninth-graders. Or it might have been this year, when another talented freshman group of swimmers joined the mix.
Whatever the length of time, the Cubs felt this was the year to grab their first trophy since 1971 — and they made it possible on Saturday at Waterford Kettering High School.
“You know, I think that it’s Coach Edson’s leadership, and it just doesn’t happen the first year that he starts coaching, but we’ve been building this program brick by brick every year,” said captain Drew Collins, who figured in four event wins for the Cubs. “We all just came together as one and got the job done.”
“It was all of them swimming their hearts out, and having it be a place where kids wanted to come swim. Piece by piece we just built it, and it all came together,” added Edson, who swam competitively for Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice when the Warriors were in the midst of a 26-year run of consecutive team championships.
Although three teams shared honors as sectional dual-meet champions, implying Saturday’s championship could be a closely contested affair, University of Detroit Jesuit asserted itself early and eventually won going away, never trailing throughout the afternoon.
The Cubs had first-place finishes in eight of the 12 events and won all three relays, amassing 545 points. Four-time defending champion Novi Detroit Catholic Central was second with 420, while Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood was third with 330.5.
“Throughout the season when we had dual meets, quad meets and tri meets, some of us didn’t swim the best, but it’s just looking at the big picture and trusting the process, and it’s about having fun, too,” Collins said. “We just try to do our best during the season, and we know that we’ve been training hard. We know we’re not always going to get the times we’re looking for (in the middle of the year), but we know we’ve got to keep our eyes on the end of the season.”
As a result, the highlights for U of D Jesuit were frequent. Evan Tack, Kiernan Tague, Collins and Charlie Bruce set a school record in winning the 200 freestyle relay with a time of 1:26.15.
Collins also won the 200 and 100 freestyle races (1:42.09, 46.54) and swam a leg on winning 400 free relay. Bruce finished first in the 50 free (21.38) and the butterfly (50.32) and was also on the victorious 200 medley relay. Christian Bouchillon took the backstroke (50.17) and contributed to a pair of winning relays.
In five individual events, University of Detroit Jesuit took at least three scoring places among the top eight in the championship heats. The Cubs also got top-five finishes throughout the day from Jordan Bouchillon, Daniel Palizzi, John Wenderski, Matt Garza, Scooby Szuba, Evan Hurtado and Paatrick MacKillop. Many members of the team dropped time throughout the weekend meet.
“In our pre-meet team meeting, we just knew we had a job to do, and everybody went out and executed it,” Christian Bouchillon said. “Like coach said, it was one of the best prelims-to-finals days, and one of the best ones I’ve seen. We all came together.”
“In the prelims for us, we had the energy there, but we just needed a little bit more,” Collins said. “We came in today knowing we’re going to get this done and have fun. We had the whole team cheering behind the blocks, we had everyone standing up and going crazy. Just from that 200 medley relay, the start of the meet, we just kicked it right out and did what we had to do.”
Catholic Central won three events: Jason Per in one-meter diving (417.60 points), Logan Paxton in the 500 freestyle (4:55.92) and Luke Mychalowych in the breaststroke (59.05). Warren De La Salle’s Max Swiatkowski won the individual medley (1:56.40), but by and large, it was the right time for the Cubs to shine.
“After we had a few meets this season, we knew we really had a chance of winning this weekend,” said Christian Bouchillon (who also performed the pre-meet national anthem). “It’s been a long time, since 1971. Our goal since we’ve been freshmen — me, Drew, Charlie, all the seniors this year — our goal has been to leave something here, and we feel we’ve finally left a legacy that can be built upon.”
“It’s heart, that’s all it is,” Edson said. “They bought into the process and they truly believe in it. Our motto is ‘Brick by brick’ — all of them are bricks, you know? They’re putting it together. They’re building this house.”
Wait a minute — don’t bricks sink?
Edson added, “Not at our school, they don’t.”