6/7/20 -- As the Class of 2020 graduates, its accomplishments are impressive:
31-1 in Dual Meets (2017-2020)
24-0 in Dual Meets Against New England Competition
4 New England Championships
2 Eastern Championships and 2 Runner-Ups
Selected to Represent the US at the 2019 World Championships
Both the 2019 and 2020 teams placed 4th in the USA among all high-school swimming and diving programs.
The Class of 2020 is, arguably, the second-best graduating class in Andover history--behind only the Class of 1949, which featured two World Record holders, Jim McLane and Richard Thoman.
JOHANN ASMUS LEON arrived at Andover this fall from Göttingen, Germany. Determined to contribute to a varsity athletic team, Johann took a few jumps off the board, and Coach Belinda knew things would turn out well.
They did. By the end of the season, he had 11 dives ready for both Easterns and New Englands; in the latter, he placed 13th.
Brave, funny, and caring, Johann was a prized member of the swimming and diving team. Next year, Johann returns to Germany to finish his secondary-school career.
Co-Captain SAM DONCHI is the only swimmer who has been named by a prospect as a reason to come to Andover. Even though this 8th-grader had never met Sam, in his initial email to me, he wrote, “…one athlete, in particular, I look up to is Sam Donchi, him having a very fast all around times is something that I would really like to work towards.”
That makes sense. Sam concludes his career as the most improved swimmer over a four-year career in memory. Sam’s times in 8th-grade v. 12th: 200 Free, 1:54 v. 1:39; 500 Free, 5:02 v. 4:30; 100 Back, 57 v. 49; 100 Fly, 55 v. 48; 200 IM, 2:09 v. 1:49.
A 6-time All-American, he achieved this feat in the 500 Free, 100 Back, 100 Fly, and 200 IM; no other swimmer in Andover history has earned an All-American Award in 3 of the 4 strokes in addition to the IM. Of the 8 individual events, in 4, he is the 2nd-fastest in school history, and in the 5th, the IM, he holds the School Record. These data points make a good argument for recognizing Sam among the best all-around swimmers in Andover history.
Sam is also a clutch relay performer, including as a member of the 4x100 squad that broke the 29-year-old Eastern Record by going under 3:00. At this year’s New England’s, Sam was the only person at the meet to win each time he touched the water. It’s nice to end with well- deserved perfection.
All this great swimming emerges from Sam’s being as intelligent a swimmer, as coachable an athlete, and as tough a worker as anyone. His supreme credibility, combined with his self-deprecation, his modesty, and his confidence, fuel his strong leadership.
Perhaps the moment that best encapsulates Sam as an Andover swimmer is a moment when he did not actually swim. Poised to break the School Record in the 500 and less than 12 hours before we were to depart for Easterns, 10th-grader Sam texted that he had joined two other swimmers in coming down with the flu. They all missed the meet, and the team missed winning its first championship by only 12 points. Sam’s text to me from 12:17AM captures much: “I just hope I didn’t get anyone else on the team sick.”
Upon his graduation, Sam was awarded the Press Club Award for being among the top male athlete in the senior the senior class—National Team member Andrew Wilson ’12 announced the award as a surprise to Sam—and was named 1 of 4 “Athletes of the Year” by the Phillipian. Sam is heading to the University of Pennsylvania.
BRANDON GARCIA postponed college to join us this year. An immense talent in the pool, he flourished with his ability to arrive in an entirely new program, with a very different training regime than to which he was accustomed, and he became a leader, not by the mere facts of age and experience but by who he really is.
Brandon departs Andover as a 3-time All-American as well as 2nd on the All-Time list in the 50 Free, having broken the School Record at Easterns only to have it taken away minutes later. He is also 5th in the 100 Free and 4th in the 100 Breast. (Even though he did not swim them in rested at championship meets, he is also in the Top 20 in the 200 Free, 100 Back, 100 Fly, and 200 IM).
Hailing from San Antonio, Brandon was a George Bush ’42 Scholar at Andover this year. Next year, he will be a George Bush Scholar at Southern Methodist University.
Known as “Thanos,” MAX HUNGER retires to Andover lore.
Last year as a new upper, Max joined a small cadre of Andover swimmers who have held the New England Record in the 200 Free: legends David Mainen ’89, John Kingery ’75, and Olympic Gold Medalist Jim McLane ’49. This year, Max swam even faster: 1:36.82. In addition to the 200, Max holds School Records in the 50 Free (20.67) and the 500 Free (4:27.72). While he achieved best times in his individual events this year, Max was not fully satisfied, and he responded, impressively, with the fastest 50 split in school history as a member of the 4x 50 Free Relay (20.15) as well as the fastest 100 split as a member of the 4x100 Free Relay (43.98). His 2nd 50 was 22.77. That relay holds the Eastern and New England Records and is the 13th fastest relay in the history of high-school swimming.
In just two years, Max earned 11 All-American Awards, tied with Tim Wynter '14 and Neil Simpson '19 for the 2nd-highest number of All-American accolades in school history. Of those 11, though, 7 are in individual events. No other Andover swimmer has ever accomplished that.
Coming from a high-volume training culture with less focus on speed, Max joined his primary training partner Sam Donchi and was always up for a challenge: at the end of 36x100s doing the final 8 on 1:00 all under :55, crushing the team record in the Super 100s, completing a 7,800 yard practice in 90 minutes.
Also known as “Dad,” Max will have a lasting legacy on Andover swimming not just because of his speed and work ethic in the pool but also his mentoring and leadership outside it. Both calm and fiery, garrulous and focused, nice and competitive, he leads by example but is unafraid of using his rapport as capital when needed. Max is Team First, as evidenced best by his reaction to seeing that 2:59.81 in the 400 Free Relay at Easterns.
Next year, Max will start at Princeton University.
Upon his dropping 4 seconds in the 500 Free at Easterns, ANTHONY MINICKIELLO won this year’s “I’m Not Teary, You’re Teary” Award for sparking such emotion in peers, coaches, and alums. No performance this season was more satisfying.
Best times are hard to come by, especially when you are a New England Age Group Legend such as Anthony. Year after year, he would have small drops, ones to be celebrated no doubt, yet still frustrating. Year after year, though, he would return for a new season ready to start again. Across the years, Anthony’s focus had to shift from the short to the long term, which reflected a growing perspective and maturity. When doubt flickered, he had to find faith.
While Anthony’s confidence fluctuated at times, his work ethic never wavered. Often joining Max Hunger ’20 and Sam Donchi ’20, Anthony has only two gears: 4th and 5th in a 5-gear transmission. He is a cardio machine, clearly enjoying the feelings that emerge only from intense, pure effort. Moreover, he is remarkably consistent and reliable, always physically and psychologically ready for practice and meets. He is a model of quiet leadership and explicit fortitude.
Everything came together at the end of his senior season, as it should. Anthony’s 4:36.22 in the 500 Free places him 4th on Andover’s All-Time list. His 51.37 in the 100 Fly places him 9th, and his 1:43.64 in the 200 Free places him 11th. (As an example of his tenacity, at New Englands in both 2019 and 2020, Anthony competed in the Fly and the 500 with only the 100 Free in between).
If you know him, it will not surprise you to learn that Anthony is also a triathlete, one who qualified for 2019 Age Group World Championships in Switzerland. In the fall, Anthony will take his remarkable focus and ethic—and kindness and so much more—to Colby College.
Pop quiz. You have a must-win dual meet coming up, and you can draft anyone in the history of Andover Swimming. Who is your first pick? Coach Fox's: Co-Captain ARNOLD SU. The 15-time All American played a tremendous part in ensuring that the Class of 2020 never lost to any New England team.
Between 2017-2020, 11 of a possible 12 Andover relays received All American Awards. Arnold was a member of all 11 relays. At championship meets, his versatility is the stuff of legend. Across 16 individual events at championship meets, Arnold competed at least once in the 50 Free, 100 Free, 200 Free, 100 Breast, 100 Fly, and 200 IM--only missing the 500 Free and 100 Back.
Arnold made a statement during his first practice as 9th-grader by dropping a 23.2 in the 50 Fly. While he is speedy, and sneaky, in the pool, though, he is an even better presence out of it: always, always positive and supportive, terrifically funny, kind, and thoughtful. Along with Sam Donchi, he has been a terrific captain.
His best times include the 2nd-fastest relay splits in Andover history: 50 Free (20.22) and 100 Free (44.71). His time of 1:40.89 in the 200 Free as a 10th grader is tied for 5th. And his best times from 12th grade include: 56.28 in the 100 Breast (3rd), 49.54 in the 100 Fly (3rd), and 1:51.77 in the 200 IM (4th).
Arnold has brought to Andover something far more special than speed: a genuine, perpetual state-of-chill. He is utterly unflappable, essentially devoid of anxiety, and truly uninterested in how others perceive him. The latter is not out of ego nor obtuseness; Arnold simply does his own thing. He is also as genuinely humble as anyone I have ever known. And, he can sleep at any moment, in any location.
In the fall, he will begin his studies just down the road at MIT.
RIKU TANAKA concluded his Andover career with best times in the 100 Free (48.49) and 500 Free (4:46.28), and he missed his best time in the 200 Free by just .02 (1:45.36).
Called on to provide the steadiness of experience to anchor the 200 Medley Relay in the preliminaries at Easterns, he dropped a best time of 22.05 and guaranteed Andover a spot in the finals.
This perfect ending resulted from Riku’s tremendous work ethic—often joining Sam Donchi, Max Hunger, and Anthony Minickiello to train—and his toughness. At our opening practices, Riku set the tone for all when he arrived covered with bruises and lacerations from a fall during a cross-country race.
A poet, a caregiver, and a flag-bearer, Riku has been the empathetic glue at the heart of the team for four years. He reads people and situations remarkably well and has always offered an invaluable perspective. Much of Riku is captured in the terrific speech he gave to the graduating class (link below). Riku also has a wicked sense of humor and can cut to the quick like no one else.
Next year, Riku will take his speedy walk, his terrific mind, his caring heart—and his talent at the Plunge—to the University of Pennsylvania.
You may watch Riku’s speech, which begins at 9:43 HERE. Grace Hitchcock, Co-Captain of the Girls’ Swimming & Diving team speaks immediately following.