LIVONIA — A year ago, Jessica Stoddard described her first year coaching the boys swimmers at Novi Detroit Catholic Central as “incredible ... there’s so much talent and they work so hard.”

Now, she’s changed her opinion: “Awesome! I love them.”

You could practically see the confidence oozing from the pores of the Shamrocks as they prepared to meet their archrival Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice for the CHSL swim and dive championship at Livonia Recreation Center.

The Warriors, who owned this crown outright for 26 years until the Shamrocks deposed them last year, kept the heat on the Shamrocks, trailing by a mere 19 points after eight events.

Catholic Central was not to be denied. They outscored Rice 177-117 in the final four events to wrap up their second straight CHSL title, 549-451.

Eighty of the points came by virtue of two relay victories. The quartet of senior Mario McDonald, junior Brian Hussey, senior Bennett Loniewski, and junior Conor Brownell won the 200 yard freestyle relay (Rice came in third), and sophomore Matthew Kozma, Loniewski, McDonald and Brownell took the meet-ending 400 freestyle relay by five seconds over the runner-up Warriors.

Catholic Central’s McDonald won three medals, winning the 50-yard freestyle in addition to a leg on two relay races.

Brother Rice freshman Ryker Rush was a triple winner, finishing in front in the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard Butterfly, and a leg of the 200 medley relay.

Rice coach Mike Venos watched his son Jonah swim for the last time in a CHSL meet, winning the grinding 500-yard freestyle. He’ll be swimming at the University of Cincinnati come fall.

The attention now turns to this weekend Friday-Saturday, March 8-9 for the state finals. Catholic Central and Brother Rice will be at the Holland Aquatic Center for Division 1; U-D Jesuit and De La Salle will be at Eastern Michigan for Division 2 competition, and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood and Allen Park Cabrini will partake in Division 3 at Oakland University.

Cabrini will be represented by junior diver Grace Sabo. She was one of two girls along with five boys who qualified for the CHSL meet. The full roster has 13 girls and 12 boys.

Coach Paul LaCroix told his swimmers that “the only enemy you have is the clock, not the guy in the lane next to you.” At the time of this interview, he called it “super successful that everyone in two of four events had dropped their season-best times.”

He has coached Cabrini for 25 years. He coaches Allen Park High girls teams in the fall season.


1st — Detroit Catholic Central: 549

2nd — Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice: 454.5

3rd — Detroit U-D Jesuit 378.5 

4th Warren De La Salle Collegiate: 287 

5th Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood: 183 

6th Allen Park St. Frances Cabrini: 88 

7th — Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard/AA Greenhills: 87


200 Yard Medley Relay Brother Rice (senior Liam McDonnell, sophomore Elijah Venos, freshman Ryker Rush, senior Jonah Venos)

200 Yard Freestyle Sophomore Matthew Kozma (Catholic Central)

200 Yard Individual medley Freshman Ryker Rush (Brother Rice)

50 Yard Freestyle Junior Mario McDonald (Catholic Central)

1 Meter Diving Sophomore Joey Basha (De La Salle)

100 Yard Butterfly Freshman Ryker Rush (Brother Rice)

100 Yard Freestyle Junior Conor Brownell (Catholic Central)

100 Yard Freestyle Junior Mario McDonald (Catholic Central)

500 Yard Freestyle Senior Jonah Venos (Brother Rice)

200 Yard Freestyle Relay Catholic Central (junior Mario McDonald, junior Brian Hussey, senior Bennett Loniewski, junior Conor Brownell)

100 Yard Backstroke Senior Liam McDonnell (Brother Rice)

100 Yard Breaststroke Junior Rudy Stonisch (University of Detroit Jesuit)

400 Yard Freestyle Relay Catholic Central (sophomore Matthew Kozma, sophomore Bennett  Loniewski, junior Mario McDonald, junior Conor Brownell)