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Pain is Temporary; Love is Forever

Charlie Steel '21

There are few things less desirable than jumping into a freezing cold swimming pool at six in the morning. This is a time of day where the sun is well below the horizon and swimmers are the only cars in the parking lot. Despite many early mornings and a year of unprecedented challenges, love for one another and for this program ultimately allowed this team to defy the odds and to finish as a family and a brotherhood.

Early on, one could not help but to listen to the skepticism in the air. “This year created a unique experience for the swim team,” said senior captain Aidan Mir. “After graduating twenty some seniors last year and having only several returning state points, we had a mountain to climb in a shorter season than usual.” In spite of the mountainous challenges and doubts, the 2021 team, which included a stacked sophomore class and a stable of young talent, was promising from day one.

Mir and fellow captains Wil Applebaum, Teddy Farrell, and Ian Rutgers headed the effort to disprove the doubters. Beginning a few weeks later than usual, the boys hopped into the pool and got straight to work.

Herb Brooks once said that “great moments are born from great opportunity.” An away meet at Simley high school provided exactly that. A conference title was on the line for the first time in years, and the odds were stacked in Simley’s favor. Given that Simley had superior divers and swimmers on paper, it seemed as if the odds were stacked against the cadets.

When the time came to go out and perform, the pressure seemed insurmountable. But as a family, the boys came together with tunnel vision set on one end goal. With this mindset, the cadets swam their hearts out and defied the odds with stunning times. Sophomores Hung Nguyen and Tommy Simmons were two stand-out performances, along with 7th grader Luke Mechtel dominating the breaststroke. “We came together as a team and won through love,” said coach Barnes after the meet. It was an emotional night and one that will not soon be forgotten by the Saint Thomas Academy swimming family. “Looking back, the Sibley meet encompasses everything that the Saint Thomas academy swim program is about,” said senior Simon Kotok. “Passion, pride, and family.” Those three words were how this meet was won. Tears were shed and hugs embraced on a night that will go down as one of the peak moments in program history.

Strong, consistent swimming would follow for weeks to come. Following an emotional senior night victory, the focus shifted to the ultimate stage, the state meet at the University of Minnesota. The cadets were projected as a 16th place finisher based on previous times and accumulated points, but in typical academy fashion, the boys fought their way to a 10th place finish at State.

Junior Ian Rutgers and sophomores Joey Matschina, Austin Aldridge, and Luke Audette took home All State honors following the meet. Despite the team success, it was now time to officially say goodbye to the class of 2021 swimmers, as they would become “ghosts of the program” for years to come. While the season is finished, the team’s collective spirit and values live on. Perhaps Jack Simerson, quoting Wiz Khalifa, summed up these values best: “You don’t need too many people to be happy, just a few real ones who appreciate who you are.”