BY DAN STICKRADT
NOVI — When Shannon Dunworth took over the boys swimming and diving program at Novi Detroit Catholic Central, the picture wasn’t a thing a beauty.
Far from it.
Unlike most of the Shamrocks’ programs, CC’s swim team was small and somewhat uncompetitive.
“I didn’t go there because there was a plethora of talent,” recalled Dunworth, a veteran high school and club coach in the Detroit area who has been widely successful at Farmington Hills Mercy amongst other places. “I think we had something like nine swimmers the first year I was there. You’re not going to win too many meets with those types of numbers in Oakland County. We didn’t win a (dual) meet during the first three years.”
The first campaign was 2005-06. Fast forward to 2015-16 and it’s a completely different picture for the Shamrocks. Catholic Central is currently ranked ninth in the state.
The progression is evident. Slowly the Shamrocks have climbed the ladder in talent-laden Oakland County in the past decade and has been nestled in the top 10 there the past several years. At the Division 1 state finals, the progression has been even more impressive.
After failing to score a single point in 2006 and 2007 and registering only one point in 2008 (35th overall), the Shamrocks quickly assented into the top 10, where they have finished each of the past four seasons.
Catholic Central was 34th in 2010 (3.5 points), 17th in 2011 (38 points), sixth in 2012 (111 points), an all-time best fifth in 2013 (156 points), sixth in 2014 (126 points) and eighth in 2015 (134.5).
“It took a few years to kind of get going, but we laid the ground work and we’ve been blessed with some quality kids that decided to come to Catholic Central to swim,” noted Dunworth. “We’ve had a few good ones, too. Swimmers who are now competing in college.”
Although 1-3 in duals this season against tough competition, Catholic Central recently won the East Grand Rapids Invitational in an event that boasted a few state-ranked teams. The Shamrocks also claimed runner-up finishes at events at Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood and Birmingham Groves.
CC is aiming for a top-10 finish at the upcoming Oakland County meet Feb. 6 at Lake Orion, where more than 35 schools and double digits of ranked teams will commence for one of the state’s biggest showcases of talent this side of the state meets.
Senior Matt Loniewski and freshmen Jonathan Lee and Kyle TeShannon have already qualified for the state finals. Senior Ethan Bezzina and sophomore Charlie Walsh made the state finals last season and are key contributors as well.
Senior Robert Vance is a returning state qualifier in diving and junior Brendan Connelly has improved drastically. Freshman diver David DeBaker might be the most talented of the bunch.
While CC does not have the deep talent pool to contend for a state championship, a fifth straight top-10 state meet finish is a possibility.
“That’s one of the things that we are proud of. We can have the realistic goal of finishing in the top 10 in the state at the end of the season,” said Dunworth “Remember, a (decade) ago, we didn’t even have 10 swimmers on our team.”