The swimming meet was only one event old and already the handwriting was on the wall.
This time it didn't say Loyola. It said Calvert Hall.
Last month, in the first confrontation of the Maryland Scholastic Association powers, Loyola stunned Calvert Hall in the opening event, the 200-yard medley relay. With that impetus, the Dons went on to upset the defending MSA champions, 94-92.
But in the rematch before a standing-room-only gathering at Calvert Hall's Hucht Pool yesterday, the Cardinals captured the medley relay and ultimately won, 97-88. The coaches, Loyola's Murray Stephens and Calvert Hall's Reds Hucht, agreed that the meet turned on the opening event.
"That was it, basically," Stephens said. "If we had won that, it might have put us close enough to win at the end."
Hucht juggled his medley relay, inserting Matt Fouse, who missed the first meet with mononucleosis, and Greg Hillis. Fouse, the team's best in the backstroke, gave Calvert Hall a lead on the opening leg that it never surrendered.
"This was his second meet since he came back from mono," Hucht said. "I didn't want to work him too hard in practice for fear of wearing him down."
There were other keys for Calvert Hall. Andrew Conrad and Hillis went one-two in the 50 and 100 freestyles, and Brian Norris came from behind to win the 100 butterfly, collaborating with Kevin Gass on another one-two Cardinals finish.
"Norris usually dies after three laps and I pray on the final one," Hucht said. "This time he came through."
Before the next-to-last event, the 100 breaststroke, Loyola trailed by 80-75. Calvert Hall's Andy Dixon then dipped under a minute for the first time in his life to win the event in 59.67 seconds, breaking the school record of 59.87 established 11 years ago by Carl Tuveson.
"The answer was my strong finish," Dixon said, noting that his time for the final 50 yards was 31.3 seconds.
Despite Dixon's big swim, Loyola was only seven points behind entering the final event, the 400 freestyle relay. But the Dons' two relays would have had to finish one-two, which was unrealistic.
"We needed to win the breaststroke and the final relay," Stephens said.
Loyola didn't win either. Calvert Hall's relay of Conrad, Gass, Ryan Horner and Hillis clinched it.
Stephens had at least one consolation. Almost without exception, his swimmers and Calvert Hall's turned in their top times of the season.
/# Here's how the meet broke down: