McDonogh claims fifth straight MIAA A Conference swimming title

Eagles set the tone with a dominant performance in the opening relay and go on to rack up more than 550 points

Published 2/5/2023 9:56 a.m. EST, Updated 2/6/2023 12:25 p.m. EST

The McDonogh boys swimming team poses with the MIAA A Conference championship plaque following its impressive victory in the league's championship meet, Saturday at the Loyola University in Maryland Mangione Aquatic Center.

From the get-go, McDonogh made its intentions clear in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference swimming championship at Loyola University Maryland’s Mangione Aquatic Center on Saturday night, winning the event for the fifth straight time by outdistancing Loyola Blakefield, 555.5-399.5, while Gilman (3rd, 276), Mount St. Joseph (4th, 249), Archbishop Spalding (5th, 171) and Calvert Hall Hall (6th, 132) followed.

The Eagles’ 200-yard medley relay team (1:30.65) of seniors Will Cussimanio and Connor Cashman, junior Caiden Bowers and sophomore Langston Duncan set the tone with a convincing win, by more than four seconds, over Mount St. Joseph (1:35.06) and its seniors Jonah Stein and Antonio Gurri, junior Nicolo Gurri and sophomore Brendan Moran.

”The first relay is always so important for us,” Cussimanio said. “We always say that we have to set the tone. It’s so powerful winning by that much. It gets our guys going — it gets our guys pumped.”

”As soon as I saw Will touch first, the environment became electric,” Bowers said. “The adrenaline was amplified.”

Loyola rallied to tie the McDonogh, 91-91, in team points after the 200 freestyle, garnering 59 points on the strength of winner Patrick Branon (1:41.20), followed by sophomore Harry Belbot (3rd, 1:41.80), senior John Koebel (7th, 1:45.03) and sophomore Bradin Norris (1:47.99).

Senior Drew Greene (2nd, 1:41.32) led the charge for the Eagles in the event.

The seven-time champs made amends in the 200 individual medley by producing 60 points with junior Max Mislow (1:54.37) touching home first ahead of Stein (1:55.11) and McDonogh senior Kyle Bitz (4th, 1:55.63) and juniors Connor Tiffin (5th, 1:57.25) and Leo Guan (8th, 1:59.52) chipping in to jump ahead in the team chase, 151-104, over the Dons.

Coach Scott Ward’s undefeated juggernaut increased its lead to 75 points after Duncan (21.34) prevailed in the 50 free, edging Gilman sophomore Jackson Heether (21.58) and Gurri (21.68).

Other Eagle scorers included Cashman (6th, 21.81) and sophomore Mark Cherches (8th, 22.17).

McDonogh kept the pedal to the metal by winning the 100 butterfly with Bowers (47.96) breaking the meet record he set in the morning session and Cussimanio (49.84) next in line to maintain its wide advantage.

Senior Teddy McQuaid (3rd, 49.88) and Belbot (52.82) helped Loyola to maintain second place ahead of pesky Gilman, a mere seven points off the pace.

Not to be satisfied with the status quo, the Eagles kept powering forward by taking the 100 free behind Greene (46.62), who edged Gurri (47.17) and Gilman senior Timothy Brooks (47.36).

Duncan (4th, 47.39) and Cashman (8th, 48.32) helped McDonogh to stretch its advantage 308.5-212.5 over Loyola and Gilman (172.5).

The Dons made some slight inroads against the Eagles in the 500 free by adding key team points from Branon (4:35.28), Koebel (4th, 4:45.65) and Norris (7th, 4:52.83) while McDonogh countered with junior Brandon Richter (2nd, 4:35.30), Mislow (5th, 4:48.36) and senior Dean Serino (7th, 4:53.55).

The Eagles bounced back to take the 200 free relay as Greene, Cussimanio, Cherches and Cashman (1:26.02) edged Koebel, junior Jack Holman, Brandon and sophomore Alexander Dillon (1:26.72) of Loyola to make the team score, 395.5-302.05, in favor of McDonogh.

McDonogh inched closer to a triple-digit cushion after Cussiamanio (49.66) topped McQuaid (50.81) in the 100 backstroke with Loyola’s Lucas Wright (53.14) next. Tiffin (5th, 54.17) and Mislow (54.59) added to McDonogh’s success.

The Eagles’ dominance in the 100 breaststroke overwhelmed their rivals and put them over the 500-point mark for the meet when Bowers’ 54.70 automatic All-American time was the best of the McDonogh finishers — Bitz (2nd, 57.87), Guan (5th, 59.01) and senior Ryan Callahan (6th, 1:02.07).

Getting 124 points out of the breaststroke and IM was about as good as Ward could have asked for from his swimmers.

”It was awesome that we had four kids in both finals of those events,” Cussimanio said. “Max Mislow said that he was going to win before he got on the blocks, and that got us all hyped watching him. All those racers were so motivated. It was awesome to see.”

Ward said that McDonogh has always produced a strong breaststroke contingent.

”It’s my favorite stroke to coach,” he said. “You have to coach the breaststroke to the strength of each athlete.”

McDonogh did not let a big lead dissuade it from finishing strong in the 400 free relay (3:07.85), taking the event with Greene, Duncan, Serino and Bowers pulling away from Gilman (3:09.56) — seniors Brody Schrepfer and Timothy Brooks and sophomores Jackson Heether and Max Kunisaki.

All in all, the Eagles showed up ready to compete at a high level — and did not disappoint.

”We’re building an empire,” Bowers said. “Winning is what we do.”

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