La Salle's Teamwork Wins National Catholic Swimming Title

Posted: February 19, 1996

La Salle senior Ray Fitzpatrick held the trophy after the Explorers won the National Catholic Swimming Championship yesterday, and he commented on how heavy it was.

Teammate Tom Yaegel reached for the trophy, and the two held it over their heads for the rest of their team to see.

That was only fitting, because they had sacrificed personal glory to lead the Explorers to their first national title at Villanova.

Neither finished higher than third in an individual event, but each anchored a winning relay as La Salle totaled 251 points. Defending champ Paul VI of Fairfax, Va., was second with 182.

``They were only 75 percent rested,'' coach Frank Lichtner said of his stars, ``but they led the team without winning individual events. They piled up thirds and fourths and anchored winning relays.''

Unlike most of the meet's participants, Yaegel and Fitzpatrick did not shave or fully taper, opting to wait until this weekend's Eastern Championships.

``It's kind of disappointing when you slow down [from your seed time] a little and don't hold your seed,'' Yaegel said. ``But when you win the meet, it erases everything. This meet was about the team, not individual success.''

The Explorers were the only boys' team represented in the final heat of every event.

While La Salle won team honors, Malvern Prep senior Mike Bittinger monopolized individual accolades. He set meet records in the 50-yard freestyle (20.33 seconds) and 100 butterfly (49.38) to become the first area boy in 21 years to be named the meet's outstanding swimmer.

``I expected to win the 50, but my times surprised me,'' Bittinger said. ``I expected the 'fly to be close since [top-seeded Jeff Somensatto] beat me yesterday. I decided to take it out pretty hard, and it worked out.''

In the girls' competition, Paul VI won with 300 points. Gwynedd-Mercy (154) and Cardinal O'Hara (111) topped area teams by finishing third and fifth. Gwynedd was led by sophomores Kristin McMenamin, who reached the finals in the 50 freestyle (second) and 100 freestyle (fourth), and Bernadette Bacino, who placed in the 200 individual medley (fourth) and 100 breaststroke (sixth).

Among other girls' teams, Archbishop Ryan (seventh), Archbishop Prendergast (eighth) and Villa Maria (ninth) also finished in the top 10.

Of the boys' teams, Malvern (fifth), O'Hara (eighth) and Monsignor Bonner (10th) finished high.

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