WARREN, Mich. — The 2019-20 high school season was anything but normal for the De La Salle Collegiate swim team.
So why would the Pilots expect their end-of-season banquet to be any different?
Dealing with issues in its home pool (Woods-Tower) and an abrupt end to its season due to the COVID-19 situation, everything was a bit off-kilter for coach Jim Singelyn and his boys. If they wanted to have a post-season celebration, they were going to have to think outside the box.
"The seniors have always given a speech at the team banquet," Singelyn said. "I was going to have them each record their speech and email it to the team. And Juan (DiCosmo) was like, 'Everybody is doing these Zoom and Google Meets for school. Why don't we just do one for our banquet?'
"The more I thought about it I was like, 'Let's do it, why not?' "
It was one last chance for the team to get together and celebrate its successes.
"I was really proud of the way the team overcame all the adversity this year and it was truly a pleasure being a captain," senior Gianluca Cavataio said. "With how the season went, it really was the icing on the cake having a virtual banquet. But per usual, the team overcame the curve balls thrown at us and I think it turned out really nicely."
Cavataio and the other six seniors all gave their speeches, with Cavataio hitting a home run with his.
"He blew it out of the water," Singelyn said. "I had a few moms tell me after the banquet that he almost had them in tears."
More than 30 swimmers took part in the virtual banquet last week. Singelyn spoke about each and every one of them. They watched a team tribute video
highlighting the team's success. And they handed out some awards.
Sophomore Max Swiatkowski won team MVP honors. He won a Macomb County championship in the 100 backstroke and was a state qualifier in the 200 IM, 100 back and 200 medley relay.
Freshman Carson Ricker, a three-event medalist at the county meet, won the Rookie of the Year award for the Pilots. Sophomore Brady McKay won the Team Spirit award. Cavataio and fellow senior Isaiah Brundidge shared the Coach's Award. And freshmen Michael Slusser and John Griffith shared the Most Improved Swimmer award.
"If (Griffith) figures it all out, he's going to be a monster," Singelyn said. "He's tall, he just has to grow (into his body). He came a long way this year. And (Slusser), about three-quarters of the way into the year, came to me and said he wanted to do the 200 and 500 (freestyles). For someone to come to me and ask me that, I was quite impressed. And he dropped a ton of time in those events."
For the 10th straight year, the Pilots earned all-state and all-American academic honors.
And Singelyn was informed that each of his state qualifiers, Justin Burke (diving), Joey Basha (diving), Swiatkowski, DiCosmo (200 IM), and the medley relay team of Swiatkowski, Michael Paluch, DiCosmo, and Cavataio all earned all-state honors.
There were certainly things to celebrate, whether the banquet would have been held in person or as it was, virtually.
"There was no great closure to the season, so I felt like I owed it to them," Singelyn said. "They worked their butts off for me. The least I could do is let them know I care."