Johnnies Score Perfect 10

The SJU men’s swimming team has always been competitive under Head Coach John Skudin. Last season, after a 7-3 record, the Red Storm finished fifth at the Big East Championships, its best finish ever, and in the process broke 12 school records.

With all but one swimmer returning, even bigger things were expected this season. But no one thought that heading into the Big East Championships the team would be 10-0. Except maybe Skudin.
“I know we had the team,” Skudin said. “It was whether they would rise to the occasion.”

All season long St. John’s has dominated its opponents. Led by Danilo Perunovic, the defending Big East Champion in the 100 breast, SJU opened with wins over Connecticut and Fordham.

Daniel Wells, Karol Ciechanowski, Greg Danner and Michal Szapiel all won individual events, while the Storm went 1-2-3 in the 50 free against UConn.

After wins against Massachusetts and Iona, the Storm then defeated St. Francis. St. John’s won six of eight individual events, including Wells in the 200 free and Jaak Savvi in the 100 fly.

Returning from a training trip during the winter break in Barbados, SJU improved to 6-0, with a 134-78 win over Fairfield. The Red Storm won every single individual event, including Tom Rueger in both the 50 and 100 free and Danner capturing the 100 fly and 100 breast.

After wins against Rutgers, Seton Hall and Stony Brook, only Boston College stood in the way of St. John’s first undefeated season in the program’s 36-year history. Knowing what was at stake, the Red Storm swam the Eagles out of the pool, winning 12 individual events and both relays en route to a 185-99 victory.

Individual winners for the Johnnies included Perunovic, Ciechanowski, Danner and Maciej Lewandowski, who won both the 100 and 200 breast.

The perfect regular season goal was achieved, but the season was not over.

Last weekend, the team competed in the Rutgers Invitational with one last chance to qualify for the Big East Championships which will be held at the Goodwill Games Swimming Center in Uniondale, N.Y. on Thursday through Saturday. The Red Storm took advantage, adding several names to the list of Big East qualifiers. Twelve members of the squad have qualified and there will be 25 SJU entries in the 12 individual events, including Perunovic, who will look to defend his title.

“We’re going to do the best we can and however we come out, we come out,” Skudin said. “We’re going to swim our best and get the points we can.

With such a large number of entries, St. John’s will look to end Pittsburgh’s dominance in the Big East. The Panthers have won the last four Big East Championships and are winners of 15 of the 21 total titles. Other contenders include last year’s runner up, Notre Dame, Syracuse and conference newcomer Virginia Tech.