Huge Year of Progress for Hornets Swimming


Novato Swimmers at the MCAL meet (Left to Right) Niko Stratigos, Sam Rhinehart, Brett Brewer, Bryden Thielenhaus

Brett Huser, Reporter, Web Editor

In the 2022 MCAL swimming regular season, the Novato High boys team went undefeated, breezing through the MCAL competition to finish with an 8-0 record. The team is deep with talent and has an immense amount of experience, including nine senior boys, as well as seven seniors on the girls team. This senior class has helped lead by example and give their all to the program over the past four years. 

While having naturally-talented and experienced swimmers definitely helps, it seems the success of Hornets swimming is due to how hard they work to strengthen their skills and improve as a team. The team practices every afternoon from Monday to Friday and in the mornings every Monday, Friday, and Saturday. They also have a handful of swimmers who swim year-round as well as a great number of swimmers who also play water polo in the Fall.

The head coach of the swimming team, Denise McIntyre, holds her team to a very high standard. She encourages her swimmers to give full effort and embody a positive attitude at all times.

“There is no other team at NHS that works harder than the swim team and no other team with a higher level of grit,” said McIntyre. “We define grit as passion and perseverance day in and day out. As coaches, we have opened them to the possibilities of what they can accomplish. With their growth mindset, failure is not permanent, so they are never afraid to try and fail as they know they always have the entire team behind them.”

The team also embodies this positive attitude by being great teammates to one another and always possessing a sense of humility.

“We have two rules for being on the team: work hard, and respect your teammates.  Working hard is always giving 100% effort; what you give in practice every day shows up in the races on meet days,” said McIntyre. “Respecting your teammates means showing up on time, leaving any egos outside of the pool, and believing every team member has a purpose and role on the team regardless of speed. No swimmer is bigger, or more important than the team.”

With this recipe for success, Novato swimming was able to put on a great showing in the regular season, the MCAL meet, and in the NCS (North Coast Section) meet. In the final MCAL meet at Tamalpais High, the Novato boys fought toe-to-toe with the best of the best throughout the county. The team tallied a total of 379 points, which was good enough to earn 3rd place in the meet, finishing just 4 points behind 2nd-place Redwood.

The team could have finished even higher if it weren’t for their lack of points in the diving events. Novato does not have any divers this year, while every other team in the county does.

Across both the boys and girls divisions, Novato had a total of 6 swimmers who finished with times that earned them automatic bids into NCS, and 11 “consideration” times. The boys team was led by some top performers, including junior Bryden Thielenhaus. Thielenhaus, a UC Santa Barbara commit, won the 200 (yard) freestyle and placed 2nd in the 100 fly, which was a personal record for him and a school record. Seniors Sam Rhinehart and Niko Stratigos set great times in the free sprint.

The girls team was led by senior standout Kaley McIntyre. McIntyre won the 100 free, breaking a record from 1988. McIntyre is committed to New York University, where she will be continuing her swimming career. The McIntyre family has swimming success in their DNA, as Kaley’s older brother, Zach, a Novato High Class of 2020 grad, is swimming at Duke University. Both Kaley and Zach were trained by their mother, Denise, throughout their high school years.

The team displayed some great performances in the relay events as well. The 200 free relay, composed of Thielenhaus, Rhinehart, Stratigos, and sophomore Ezra Portillo took 2nd, beating the school record from 1995. The 200 medley relay made up of Portillo, senior Nathan O’Halloran, senior Cooper Thelen, and junior Brett Brewer took 3rd place.

Team captain Niko Stratigos expressed how proud he was of the team’s performance at MCALs this year.

“I feel that the boys and the girls completely exceeded expectations at MCALs,” he said. “Our boys team came in third which is the highest we’ve placed in a while.”

The following weekend, Novato sent plenty of swimmers to compete at NCS, which consists of the top swimmers from each county throughout the Bay Area and beyond. The top performer for Novato at NCS was Thielenhaus, who placed third in the 100 butterfly finishing with a time of 49.39 seconds. This earned Thielenhaus a spot at the state tournament in Clovis.

Expect the Hornets to become a mainstay at the top of the league and to continue the hard-working tradition of Novato swimming.