LOUISVILLE — Just when St. Xavier's stranglehold on the KHSAA State Swimming and Diving Championships was about to be torpedoed, the Tigers dropped a depth charge.
St. X won its 26th consecutive boys' team title, and 50th overall, Saturday in the University of Louisville's Ralph Wright Natatorium.
The regional disqualification of St. X's 200-yard freestyle relay gave hope to the opposition. Not to worry, though.
"I don't think we ever panicked," Coach Todd Larkin said. "We've got a veteran team with a lot of leadership, and sometimes teams need to be tested. We needed this. It's not always a bad thing to have your backs to the wall.
"I think it brought about the best in our team. We bonded together and the seniors, they went 54-0 during their high school career. You count on those guys. You put it in their hands, and they got it done."
The Tigers finished with 361 points, topping Covington Catholic's 328½ . Collegiate edged Ballard for third place, 171-161.
Lexington had three top-10 schools with Tates Creek in sixth, Paul Laurence Dunbar seventh and Henry Clay ninth.
St. X won with depth.
Haywood Harrison won the 200 individual medley, Jacob Smith took the 100 butterfly and Noah Johnston snared the 500 freestyle.
The Tigers placed second in the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay.
"All of (the team titles) are special," Larkin said. "One of the things we did was we always try to get the boys to concentrate on the present. Teams that won 10 years ago, last year, 20 years ago can't help them today.
"This is special because of what these guys accomplished, and they stepped up when they needed to step up, and they truly deserve to be called champions."
Ballard's Branson Smith was the lone double winner of individual events, taking the 50- and 100-yard freestyles.
Teammate Todd Owen, who won the 100 breaststroke, earned the Outstanding Competitor award.
Bailey Harrison of Dixie Heights successfully defended his title in 1-meter diving.
Scott County junior Jesse Toney placed second in the 50 freestyle and was fourth in the 100.
"I just jumped in and swam really hard and pulled out a second," Toney said of his 50. "I had a good start and a good turn, and I only breathed once."
Tates Creek was led by senior Ethan Curl. He placed second in the 500 freestyle for the second straight year, took eighth in the 200 free and led off the Commodores' fifth-place 400-yard freestyle relay.
"I wanted to do better than second, obviously," Curl said after the 500. "I wanted to win. But I tried my best and that's really all I can ask for."
Curl also was honored with the Best and Brightest leadership award.
Dunbar's top finish was a third in the 200 freestyle relay, with Christopher Stein, Adam Harter, Cameron Younger and Brooks Marquette.
Henry Clay was fourth in that event with Jack Humphries, Zachary Byrd, Genghis Goodman and Andrew Freibert.
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @markmaloneyhl. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.