Faced with the unenviable task of replacing seven seniors -- four of whom went to Division I colleges -- Loyola coach Keith Schertle predicted that his team would not win its sixth consecutive Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association swimming crown.
The youthful Dons, however, demonstrated that depth is just as important as talent as they scored enough points to capture the championship last night at Calvert Hall.
Loyola's 289 points were enough to get by second-place McDonogh, which compiled 265 points, and third-place Gilman, which scored 261.
Schertle, whose squad capped a perfect dual-meet season, said he didn't mind being proven wrong.
"We lost a lot," he said, adding that last year's graduations left two seniors and one junior to lead the team. "We're young, but the kids really picked it up."
Loyola had only two individual winners in senior Robert Bellamy and sophomore Patrick Brugh, who won the 200-meter freestyle and 100-meter breaststroke, respectively.
But Schertle pointed to second-place finishes by junior Murry Mercier in the 200-meter IM, senior Brendan Jones (100-meter breaststroke), and Bellamy (100-meter freestyle) as key contributors.
"They swam the high school meet of their lives," Schertle said of the trio. "You always talk about leadership and stuff, but the proof is in the pudding. They were really strong."
Loyola's win overshadowed some spectacular individual performances. McDonogh junior Jamie Todes captured two events, the 200-meter IM and 500 freestyle. The most intriguing matchup pitted McDonogh's Michael Wheeler against Gilman's Jason Bruns.
Until the 400-meter freestyle relay -- the 11th and final event -- both Wheeler, a senior with the Eagles, and Bruns, a senior for the Greyhounds, had won all three events in which they participated.
Wheeler finished first in the 100-meter freestyle and the 100-meter backstroke and joined Todes, junior Scott Afzal and sophomore Andrew Schapiro to win the 200-meter medley relay.
Bruns won the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter butterfly and led the team of senior Mark Baumgartner, junior Myu Kulathungam and his sophomore brother Matt Bruns in winning the 200-meter freestyle relay.
In the final event, Wheeler, Todes, sophomore Erik Weinberg and senior Bobby Smith proved to be too much for Jason Bruns, Baumgartner, Kulathungam, and sophomore Patrick Winter.
Jason Bruns, who swam the anchor leg against Wheeler, said he didn't have enough to catch up to Wheeler, who had a one-length lead.
"I knew that if we left at the same time, I could've had him," Bruns said of Wheeler. "But he had the lead and he's a very good swimmer."
Wheeler said the two shared the same motivations.
"We're both seniors and this was the last meet of the year," he said. "Our team was just a little stronger going into the fourth person. That's what won it for us."
Said McDonogh coach Brent Miller of Wheeler's performances: "Typical Mike Wheeler. He's a racer. He wasn't going to let the Gilman guy catch him in the 400 relay."
Pub Date: 2/07/99