You don't expect late-season crispness from boys swimmers in mid-December. This is the time of the year for heavy training and teams don't work on cleaning up little things like relay starts or exchanges much.
Yet here was Marmion, in the final event of its own invitational, hitting its takeoffs sharply. The Cadets won that 400-yard freestyle relay handily over Lyons Township and claimed their eighth straight victory in the Randy Block Memorial Relays.
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"It's a fun meet for us all," Marmion senior Jon Thielen said. "We get to swim a bunch of fun relays."
Things got pretty serious, however, for that final race. The Cadets led Lyons by 4 points, and the meet scoring meant that if the Lions won and Marmion was second, the teams would have shared the title.
"That was a blast," Thielen said. "We were behind the blocks right before that and we were saying to each other 'all right, we need to win this if we want to keep the win streak going at this meet that we've had going for so long.' We got pumped up and went out and tried to do our best."
Thielen anchored that relay, and by the time he hit the water, Marmion had a strong lead. Mike Burke led off and Luke Badja put the Cadets in front. Josh Kanute solidified the lead before Thielen took over.
"There's juniors and seniors on that relay," Thielen said. "I've swam with Mike, Luke and Josh my entire time at Marmion. They're really great guys to swim with. I swim with (Burke and Badja) on the Bullets in club season so that's added time I get to swim with them."
This year marked the 42nd annual relay meet hosted by Marmion and the Cadets have won the meet on 20 occasions.
"It's a matter of pride for us," Marmion assistant coach Aaron Maschman said. "It's a kind of a benchmark in our training right now. I think it shows us that we've done some things well and there are some things we need to continue to improve upon."
The boys swimming season always starts with an early burst of competition and then a two-week break where there are few meets but plenty of training. Teams usually emerge in the New Year looking leaner and more fit than they were in early December.
"The thing we need to work on is getting in and out of our turns," Thielen said. "The whole team, as a whole, has been working really hard on that, training really hard."
Overall, Marmion won six of the day's 12 events and finished no lower than second in 11 of those races.
"I would say our relay exchanges looked a little better than maybe what I would have expected at this point in time," Maschman said. "In terms of race strategy here and there, there were a couple of points where I would have tried to adjust what they did a little bit."
Benet finished fourth in the meet. The Redwings' Mike Cortesio, Andrew Pell, Bram Williams and Emmet Elisha finished second in the 200 medley relay and were also second in the one-minute relay, where four swimmers each swim 25 yards with the winning team the closest to 1 minute without going over the time limit.
"We swam all right today," Benet coach Sarah Maggio said. "I mean, we weren't great but some people really got in and raced the best that they've done. I know it's early in the season, but some of them raced really hard."
Maggio said she has learned much of her team since the start of the season, information that will be valuable during upcoming Christmas vacation training.
"Some of the people have got some work to do, you know, getting back in shape, unfortunately," Maggio. "It kind of showed in some of our races today. Small details such as starts, turns -- we didn't work on that stuff. But we're good going into Christmas training, and coming out of that is always a good thing."