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DIV. 1 STATE SWIMMING AND DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

St. John’s Prep wins eighth straight swimming title

The Division 1 boys’ state championship swimming and diving meet was halfway over, with six of 12 events in the books, and St. John’s Prep had already scored 159 points. The Eagles could have left Harvard’s Blodgett Pool, went out for pizza and returned two hours later to collect their gold medals.

For the eighth straight year, St. John’s Prep captured the state title Sunday night, this time in a laughable competition that left the Prep with five first-place and two second-place finishes in 12 events. The Eagles finished with 374 points, more than double the score of second-place Westford, which tallied 155.5. St. John’s of Shrewsbury finished third with 144.5.

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“The shirt says it all,” said coach Tony Padvaiskas. “Tradition is fast learned, then you earn it. Every year these boys understand what it takes.”

In a sport that hasn’t seen a public school capture a Division 1 title since Chelmsford did it in 2004, there were no discrepancies.

And this was the year St. John’s Prep, a team with more than 50 percent turnover from last season, was supposed to be less of a giant in the pool.

But the Eagles — with more than 60 swimmers and divers on the team, a schedule that includes 6 a.m. practices, and a fan base that took up more than half of the available bleacher space — still flexed their muscles.

“It’s not hard [for the public schools]. Acton-Boxboro is right there all the time. Lincoln-Sudbury is right there. They have great programs. I really think with the heart and desire these kids have, anybody can do it.”

Privately, there was more poolside chatter about the possibility of putting private schools into their own divisions for state championship meets in certain sports, like swimming and golf, where schools like the Prep have built dynasties that leave public schools thrilled to see bronze.

Acton-Boxboro, which had every one of its swimmers and divers but one set personal bests, still finished sixth overall with 124 points.

“We’re really proud of them,” said Jeff Johnson, the 35th-year A-B coach. “We coach the kids that come to us and we do the best job we can. All the public schools do that.”

St. John’s Prep was just too much yet again.

Junior Alex Swaim looked like he had fins, leading the Eagles to first-place finishes in the 200 medley relay (1:36) and the 200 freestyle relay (1:28.24). He also finished first in the 100 butterfly (51.89) and took second in the 100 backstroke (51.96), as Lowell’s Erik Finn slid by at 51.71.

Cole Malatesta became the first St. John’s Prep athlete to win in diving, taking the event with 571.45 points.

Attleboro junior Owen Wright won both the 50 and 200 freestyle with times of 21.68 seconds and 1:40.39 seconds, respectively.

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