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1968 Swimming Team (2003)

Coming on the heels of two successive National Catholic championships, the 1968 season loomed as a season of high expectation and of great trepidation for Loyola's swimmers and divers. Pedigree has its privileges, one of them being the pressure to repeat past performances. Though several stars of the previous season returned, others were gone, and most observers saw a difficult road ahead. This Loyola team was just not as strong, they said, and arch-rival Fenwick had closed the gap. The forecasters proved prescient, for the road was indeed arduous. Though the Ramblers went undefeated in dual and triangular meet competition and took titles at two major Catholic League relay meets, they lost their bid for a third straight Catholic League championship meet after being edged out by perennial powerhouse and foe Fenwick. Repeat championship performances from victorious All-American Steve McCarthy in the 100-yard backstroke, and from the 200-yard medley relay team (McCarthy, Jay Reynolds, Charles Foster, and Bob Rolfes) were simply not enough to stem the tide. The chance for redemption lay ahead, however, and the Ramblers seized the opportunity. Led by their coach and mentor, Dick Shiman (Hall of Fame, 1985), Loyola entered the thirty-fourth annual National Catholic Invitational meet smoldering with anger and primed for vengeance. The meet, held at Villanova University, gathered the top Catholic prep swimming and diving programs in the nation for pitched battle. The 1968 edition featured Chicago's Loyola, Fenwick, and Brother Rice; Baltimore's Calvert Hall; Philadelphia's St. Joseph's Prep, LaSalle and Malrern Prep; New Jersey's Seton Hall; and Connecticut's St. Mary's contending for the title, with teams from as far away as Puerto Rico competing in the forty-three team field. In an epic struggle that hung in doubt throughout a rollercoaster afternoon, the Ramblers pulled out victory by just 1/2 point, 141 to 140 1/2, fittingly over Fenwick, in one of the most thrilling competitions in Loyola swimming history Their third straight National Catholic title, even moreso than the year before, was largely a product of team depth rather than individual exploits. Loyola won just a single event, the 200-yard freestyle relay, with Jay Reynolds, Chuck Foster, Bob Rolfes, and Chris Hansen leading the way. Steve McCarthy paced the Ramblers with a second in the 100-yard backstroke, and a third in the 200-yard freestyle. Also doubling was Steve Dowdle with a fourth in the 100-yard freestyle and a fifth in the 200-yard freestyle. Paul Latter took a third in the 100- backstroke, while Bob Gavin and Chris Hansen placed fifth in the 100-yard butterfly and the 100-yard backstroke respectively. The dramatic conclusion of the meet saw Loyola take the title in the final event of the day, the 400-yard freestyle relay, with the Rambler quartet of Dan Baas, Phil Crouch, Mike McKeever, and Tom Donoghue touching the wall in third position. Thus, the 1968 Swimming and Diving Team secured not only its third straight National Catholic title, but also its place in Loyola Academy history as one of its storybook teams.

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