Last weekend, January 30th and 31st, Seton Swimming traveled to Villanova for the National Catholic High School Swimming Championships and showed that we could compete with Catholic schools, primarily from the Mid-Atlantic region, that were much larger than Seton.

The Seton girls placed 6th overall, ahead of Bishop O’Connell and Bishop Ireton, and our boys finished 11th overall led by a sensational weekend of swimming by senior Jameson Hill.  Jameson was named Swimmer of the Meet for the 2nd year in a row after breaking two national catholic high school records, including a 33 year old record in the 500 Free.

Jameson Hill and Seton Swimming made enough of an impression, that I’ve already received several phone calls from newspapers asking for information, quotes and photos.  Here are a couple links that have already been posted:

Arlington Catholic Herald –

Washington Post –

Jameson Hill – National Catholic MVP

At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, a catholic high school kid named Bob Hackett took the silver medal for the USA in the 1500 meter freestyle.  A few months later, in January of 1977, he went to Villanova to swim in the National Catholic HS Champs, and set a record in the 500 Freestyle, 4:29.11, that has never even been seriously challenged – until this year.

After Jameson broke his own National Catholic record in the 200 Freestyle on Saturday during prelims and then again on Sunday in the finals, everyone was anxious to see what he would do in the Finals of the 500 Free.  During prelims of the 500 on Saturday, he had gone out in a :50.06 for the first 100 and held :27 highs for the subsequent 50s to finish .99 seconds behind the record.  During the finals, we all knew Jamo was serious when his first two splits flashed on the scoreboard: :23.46 at the 50 and :49.10 at the 100.  To put that in some perspective, before Jamo came to Seton, our team record for the 100 Free was 48.62, set by a swimmer that later swam on a NCAA Division I swimming scholarship.

At the 200, Jamo was almost two seconds ahead of his pace during prelims.  At the 300, he was 2.5 seconds ahead and at the 400 he was nearly 3 seconds ahead of his prelim pace.  He seemed to just be getting stronger.  With the nearest swimmer 25 yards behind, Jameson touched at the 500 in 4:27.19.  The crowd was in awe as the announcer described what had just happened – and so were all of the coaches, who honored Jameson for the 2nd year in a row as the National Catholic Swimmer of the Meet.

Girls 200 Free Relay Takes the Bronze Medal

Sometimes I wonder if I don’t let the greatness of Jameson overshadow the amazing things our girls team has been doing this season.  Our girls have not been beaten all season, and a big part of the reason for that is our girls relays, the fastest of which is our 200 Free Relay.

Alex Doonis, Cat Rogers, Laura Talbott, and Lauren “the Machine” Donohoe had an amazing performance this past weekend, taking the bronze medal.  After prelims, they were seeded 1st by .01 seconds going into Sunday’s final.  Their 1:42.81 was the best they’d swum this season, but I knew they could do better – I also knew they would have to.  Cat Rogers and Laura Talbott swam particularly well, splitting 25.39 and 26.07 respectively, with both of them going nearly a second faster than their PR.

During Sunday’s finals, as the 200 Free relay event approached, Lauren Donohoe began to feel dizzy and sick.  She was lying on her back in the locker room with her feet on a bench as I kept receiving reports from concerned mothers about her condition.  Lauren was saying that she could swim, so I wasn’t about to keep her out of the finals.  We call her “The Machine” for a reason – this girl has guts – and right before the starter said “Take Your Marks”, Lauren appeared behind the blocks, a little pale, but obviously determined.

The championship final of a relay in a big meet is always exciting, and this one was no different.  Alex Doonis hit the water first and split a strong :25.31 as she broke in a new, slightly altered stroke and turn.  Then Cat Rogers swam the best split of her life, going 24.92 with a great relay start and powerful walls.  Cat’s 50 Free PR from a standing start is 26.34, so that was quite a swim!  Then Laura Talbott, swam her lifetime best relay split of 26.05, besting even her great swim in prelims.  As Laura came in, we were in a solid 3rd place behind St. John’s College High School and Notre Dame Prep – and ahead of eventual team champion Good Counsel.  Now it was Lauren Donohoe’s turn to anchor yet another relay.

Pale and dizzy just a few moments before, Lauren hit the water with her usual aggressiveness, but in spite of her incredible :24.55 split, she just couldn’t catch the other two girls – but she came very close.  Lauren touched just .20 seconds behind St. John’s and just .02 seconds behind Notre Dame Prep.  Our final time was 1:40.83, a new team record!  To put that time in perspective, if you add up the 50 Free PRs for the 4 members of this relay, you get 1:42.55!  I think we’re looking at another top 3 finish for this relay at States this year.

More Top 8 Finishes

  • Individually, we had 5 more top 8 finishes, all from our girls:

o   Lauren Donohoe took 6th in 100 Free with a 55.45 and 7th in 50 Free with a 25.41.  In both events, she snuck into the finals as the 8th seed, and then, feeling dizzy and sick on Sunday morning (see above), she swam courageously to score big points for Seton.  I am really excited about Lauren’s prospects at States – and I know she is excited also!

o   Sophomore Alex Doonis also had two top-8 finishes, placed 6th in 50 Free (25.27) and 7th in 100 Back (1:02.97).  Alex is another one I’m an excited to see swim at States.  Her times throughout this season have been steadily dropping back down toward her post-season bests last year, and they are going to need to keep dropping.  And if they do, look for a top 3 finish in 100 Back.  Last year, Alex placed 4th, but two of the girls ahead of her were seniors!

o   Junior Captain Bridget Wunderly was looking strong for her 7th place finish in 100 Fly.  Her time of 1:03.42 was right at her PR, so with her improved underwaters and breathing, I think we should see a PR at States – the time when we need it most!

  • Over the past 8 years as a coach, I’ve learned that strong relay performances are the key to scoring lots of points in a championship meet – and Seton showed how strong our relays were last weekend with two more top-8 finishes:

o   Our Girls 400 Free Relay of Alex Doonis, Carolyn Claybrooks, Cat Rogers and Lauren Donohoe took 5th place.  Alex led off with a strong :55.33 followed by Carolyn who definitely over achieved.  Carolyn’s 100 Free PR, established leading off this relay during prelims is a :58.25, but her split during finals was an amazing 56.54!  Then Cat Rogers, who had just finished competing in 100 Breaststroke split very close to her PR with a 57.03.  And, as always, our anchor was Lauren Donohoe, muscles still quivering from the 200 Free relay, who brought the relay home to final time of 3:44.78.  Like the 200 Free relay, I am expecting this relay to finish in the top 3 at States in a couple weeks.

o   Our Boys 400 Free Relay of Jameson Hill, Connor Cook, Vincent “Catfish” Dunn and David Basinger is also something special.  Last weekend, they took 6th with a very fast time of 3:21.38.  Jamo led off with a 46.13, a really good split considering he had already exerted record effort in the 200 and 500 Freestyle events.  Connor split very close to his PR with a 52.17, but it was Catfish who really shined.  His 50.95 was the fastest I’ve ever seen from this sophomore.  Then David wrapped up with a 52.13 to finish just behind Gonzaga’s “A” Relay.  We’ve talked about it amongst ourselves at the beginning of the season, and we have resolved that this relay will go under 3:20 at States.

The Boys 200 Free Relay Breaks Two Records – Well Sort Of…

  • Our Boys 200 Free Relay of Jameson Hill, Daniel Koehr, Connor Cook and David Basinger was amazing on a couple levels last weekend:

o   In the water, they swam the 6th fastest time of the meet (although they officially placed 9th because they didn’t make the top-8 during prelims) and set a new the team record of 1:32.13, beating the old team record of 1:33.21 held by Sean and Daniel Koehr and Connor and Nevin Cook.  The relay splits during finals were great!  Jamo went 21.74 literally just a few minutes after breaking that 500 Free record.  Then Daniel did a lifetime best split of 23.69 followed by Connor’s 23.80 and David’s incredible 22.91.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen David split a :22.   I think these splits must have been the result of excellent preparation ……..

o   The night before Finals, this relay represented Seton at Larry’s Famous Cheesesteaks near St. Joseph’s University in Philly.  Larry’s is a famous place.  If you don’t believe it, just ask them, which we did – “Yes we’re famous!  Kobe was in here last night after the Lakers played!”  Because we just fought through an hour of traffic because of the snow, we were not phased by this.  So next I asked for the biggest Cheesesteak they had.  Again, the lady behind the counter was ready.  For $12, they had a 2-foot long “Belly Filler” Cheesesteak.  She pointed to Sam at the grill who pulled out what, in Costco, would have been called a loaf of French bread.  I am happy to report that, together, the four members of this relay consumed the entire 8 feet of Belly Filler Cheesesteaks with Jamo and Daniel racing to be the first ones done.  Later that night, I learned that, in the future, it should be my prerogative as the head coach to require swimmers sharing my room to use the bathroom in the lobby!

Other Great Swims

  • Any discussion of other great swims at Catholic Nationals simply has to start with sophomores Vincent “Catfish” Dunn and Cat Rogers:

o   Catfish dropped another half second in 100 Back to go 57.02 in prelims and then 56.82 in the Finals where he placed 12th overall.  Catfish’s improvement this year has been nothing short of phenomenal.  I’ve been tracking Catfish’s progress against Seton’s former All-America backstroker, who graduated in 2006.  During his sophomore year at Catholic Nationals, Kevin Koehr finished 14th with a 57.63, which means that Catfish is on pace to be Seton’s best-ever backstroker.  This is going to be a fun story to watch.  56.63 at States Catfish?  I’d bet on it.

o   Another Cat, Cat Rogers, continues her amazing progress since leaving the basketball court just a couple short years ago.  Feeling a little sick, Cat still managed to drop 1.68 seconds in 100 Free to go 56.54, now the third fastest time on the team!  That was good enough for 14th place.  Then, in the finals of 100 Breaststroke, she cut 1.05 seconds from her PR to go 1:12.77 and take 12th overall.  Former Seton breaststroke star Mary Kate Kenna only swam faster than that one time, and that was at States during her senior year!  I think we’re all looking for great things out of Cat Rogers in the future.

  • Senior Captain Carolyn Claybrooks was struggling with some mineral deficiencies earlier in the season, but she appears to be past that now.  Leading off the 400 Free Relay during prelims, Carolyn cut .22 seconds from her 100 Free PR to go 58.25, now the 4th fastest time on the team.  She did that after cutting almost 2 seconds from her 200 Free PR.
  • Junior Captain David Basinger continues to flirt with that :56 barrier in 100 Fly.  Last weekend, he dropped another .08 seconds to go 57.07.  David looks very, very strong in practice, so I’m quite anxious to see what he does in the remaining post season meets.
  • Rachel Lambrecht cracked the National Catholic qualifying time to earn an opportunity to swim her steadily improving breaststroke in the big leagues for the first time.  With Carolyn and Laura graduating this year, I’m really looking forward to seeing Rachel step up into some “A” Relays next year.

The Rest of the Post-Season is Upon Us

We have three more championship meets over the next three weekends, culminating in the State Championship Meet at Freedom on February 19th and 20th.  Now is the time that champions swim that way.  This past weekend was a great indication of what we can do in a few weeks.  At this point, I don’t think any of us will be happy with anything less than State Championships for both the boys and girls.  Let’s do it.

Coach Koehr

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