1996 Men's Swimming and Diving (2008)
There are few other sports that demand as much from their athletes as does swimming. The day begins in the water and ends in the water. Those swimmers who dream of great things know that there is no other way. Talent alone is not enough. You have to pay the price. The 1996 Men's Swimming and Diving team was willing to pay that price. They were in the water by six in the morning and were still in the water at six in the evening. Led by Coach Eric McClaren and senior co-captains Mike Kennedy, Pat Lahey, and Peter Wais, the Ramblers fixed their sights high and then did the grunt work that the journey demanded of them. There are two seasons to every swimming campaign. The regular season is essentially a training camp punctuated by heightened training sessions called meets. The real season begins at conference championship time and ends at the state final. As they trained through the regular season duals and invitationals, the Ramblers knew that they had something special to reveal to the Illinois swimming world when the time was right. A potent mixture that was one part sheer talent, one part hard work, and one part character, was ready to erupt. It was just a matter of timing the eruption. At the CCL championship meet, Loyola put together an incredible team effort to pull off the upset over a powerful Brother Rice team. With its confidence soaring, Loyola prepared for the IHSA Sectional meet. Though the team's subsequent victory was much enjoyed by all, of paramount significance was the real goal of the meet: getting your athletes through qualifying and on to the state meet. Loyola's performance at the 1996 state final ranks among the greatest moments in Loyola's proud swimming and diving history. Five swimmers took control of Loyola's fortunes, accounting for all of Loyola's points that day. In the individual events, senior Mike Kennedy took 7th place in the 100-yard freestyle (47.63) while fellow senior Pat Lahey matched that with another 7th in the 100-yard breaststroke (59.54). It was in the relays, however, that Loyola would make its stand and stake its claim to glory. Loyola got off to a good start in the 200-yard medley relay when Mike Kennedy (freestyle), Pete Wais (butterfly), and Pat Lahey (breastroke) teamed up with Brian Reed (backstroke) to take fourth place in a time of 1:36.91. A short time later, Kennedy, his brother Pat, Wais, and Lahey took a second place in the 200-yard freestyle relay in 1:26.67. As the meet neared its conclusion, the traditional final raceÑthe 400-yard freestyle relayÑloomed as the great decider. Loyola stood four points behind Oak Park and third place in the meet. Loyola needed to win the race or beat Oak Park by at least two places in order to lay claim to third and a state trophy. The Kennedy brothers, Wais, and Leahy once again were called to answer the challenge and did so, taking second place in a time of 3:11.73. Just behind were New Trier and Oak Park struggling for the wall. New Trier out touched Oak Park by .01 seconds to secure Loyola's overall tie for third place and a spot on the podium. The third-place finish in 1996 remains Loyola's second best performance at the state meet, exceeded only by the second-place finish in 1989. A season of aspiration had become a season of culmination, and the dreams born of countless and lonely hours of preparation had come to realization. The 1996 Swimming and Diving team takes its place alongside the national championship teams of the 60s and the '89 state team as the most accomplished teams in Loyola swimming history.