FAITHFUL FAN | Catholic schools make their mark in lesser-known sports

Some high school sports get more attention than others. Football, basketball and soccer arguably are in the spotlight the most. Some schools may have a certain team that garners attention from a particular community.

Water polo and track and field are among spring sports with the least spotlight, though in both, Catholic high schools excel.

Last month, St. Louis University High School's water polo team scored a 15-4 win over Parkway West to take the school's 20th Missouri Water Polo championship, ending the season with a 26-1 record. SLUH's water polo team has a 874-245 record, a .781 winning percentage, from 1961-2018.

The Junior Billikens have been in the final four 33 years in a row. This was the team's seventh straight title game, and it won for the 10th time in the last 13 years. This year marks the second time SLUH won four straight titles — following another streak in 2005-09.

In mid-May, SLUH coach Paul Baudendistel wrote that the gap between SLUH and its competitors is closing (De Smet Jesuit High School, for example, also made the final four this year). He also wrote that this year's senior class at SLUH could be among the best in the history of the program.

Captains John Burke and Joe Jellinek, Baudendistel noted, "are a dynamic defensive and offensive combination, both recognized with All-District honors last spring. But unheralded defender Jacob Fields and crafty 2-meter Nick Mattingly are just as dominant. Add big lefty Brendan Moore, speed merchant Barclay Dale, and fellow returnee Jack Laux, and the ingredients are there for a special group."

"Toiling in their shadow is a talented collection of underclassmen; goalies John McCabe and Daniel Fink, defender Garrett Baldes, 2-meter Andrew Zimmerman, utilities Jarrett Schneider and Michael Kreienkamp, and attackers Luke Brawer, Will Slatin, and Justin Surber," Baudendistel wrote.

Several Junior Bills were selected by area coaches to receive All-District awards this season. Burke was named second team and Missouri Water Polo Defensive Player of the Year, Mattingly made second team and Missouri Water Polo Offensive Player of the Year and Jellinek was picked for first team honors and Missouri Water Polo Player of the Year.

Track and field

At the Missouri Class 3 championship in boys track and field this year, Cardinal Ritter Preparatory High School took first place, while Trinity Catholic High School finished second. It's the best finish for the Lions since they were third in 2013. It's their fourth championship and first one in 20 years. Trinity had its best finish ever in track and field.

Preston Thomas, athletic director at Cardinal Ritter, said repeating as champions is difficult "but definitely something we're focusing on."

The team was led by Jameson Williams, a junior. "We're blessed to have a student-athlete like him," Thomas said. "He's so gifted and so talented" that he competes in four individual events, the same as Brandon Campbell did 20 years ago. Williams scored 36 points at the state meet, and Campbell scored 38.

Cardinal Ritter has "the definitive answer" for the student-athlete, Thomas said, because of the faith- and leadership-development component of the school.

The girls team finished second two years in a row, held back by injuries this year and a runner nicking a hurdle in the state meet that resulted in going from first to fourth in that race.

Trinity's boys' team was led by Kemeric Winston, who was first in the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash. He also was part of two first-place relay teams. The girls team at Trinity finished third.

Valle tied for third in Class 1. Two athletes in Class 3 profiled earlier in the Review fared well at the state meet. Trinity freshman Sydney Juszczyk took first in the javelin, second in the 100-meter hurdles and was on the 4 x 200 meter relay team that finished second. Mitch Fairless, a senior at Duchesne High School, finished first in the high jump.

Kenny is a staff writer for the Review and a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Oakville. 

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