Cole Buese, 2015, Loyola Blakefield
by Nelson Coffin
Cole Buese did not miss a beat after transferring to Loyola Blakefield from St. Xavier High School in Louisville.
In fact, VSN’s No. 1 Boys Swimmer of the Decade improved year after year while helping the Dons to three consecutive Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference titles.
Even so, making the transition from one powerhouse program to another was not easy.
“Moving to a new city in the middle of high school is difficult for most teenagers,” Buese said. “My experience was no exception.”
On his first day of class, Buese said that Loyola coach Keith Schertle spotted hime walking from Wheeler Hall to the cafeteria across campus.
Schertle noted the Buese was “not crazy about the idea of moving from Louisville,” so the coach did his best to make him comfortable at Loyola.
“He came from a fantastic program (Lakeside Aquatic Club in Louisville) and also came from a fantastic swimming family,” Schertle said.
“As embarrassing as it was at the time, Keith saved me from that cliche ‘first-day lunch alone’ by hunting down the other swimmers and forcing me to sit down with them,” Buese recalled “Classes and lunch helped me get familiar with some of the guys on the team, especially those in my same year. But it was only after I started getting in the pool with the guys that I naturally started to feel like a true Loyola swimmer.”
Buese burst onto the local swimming scene in the 2012-2013 season and cemented his burgeoning reputation by touching home first in the 200-yard freestyle by edging McDonogh juniors Henry Stephens and Ian Silverman in the conference championship meet.
He added another individual crown by beating teammate Trey Perry in the 50 freestyle finale as Loyola produced a convincing 438.5-280 over the runner-up Eagles to reclaim the team title it lost to them in 2012.
To round out his impressive debut season, Buese joined juniors J.P. Clancy, Daniel Moreno and Perry on the winning 200 freestyle relay and teamed with Clancy, Moreno and senior Alex Bennett on the champion 400 freestyle relay squad.
The Dons — and Buese — were at it again the following February, laying waste to the Eagles, 436-265, in the championship meet after earning yet another National Catholic Championship banner.
Buese, now 24 and an investment analyst living in San Francisco, took the top spot in the 200 freestyle again, this time in a sizzling 1:39.48, ahead of Silverman(1:42.03) and Loyola teammate Mitch Williams (1:42.94).
Loyola’s All-American time in the 200 freestyle relay (1:25.20.) was due to the swift strokes of Buese, Moreno, Clancy and Perry, and came prior to Buese’s All-American consideration in the 100 backstroke at 50.47.
The same relay foursome — Moreno, Buese, Clancy and Perry — once again earned All-American honors by clocking a 3:07.05 to conclude the Dons’ dominance.
Despite all of the success at the conference meet, Buese said that his “proudest moment as a member of the team” happened at the Eastern Prep championship meet.
“Our focus every year was always the MIAA championships, but that year, we were eager to finally bring the Easterns’ title back to Baltimore,” he continued. “If I recall correctly, we came into the final day trailing Peddie (School), which usually dominated the meet each year, by a few points. (But) we ended the night with a narrow margin of victory. It is moments like Easterns, and the unexpected team performance that makes high school swimming, and my career at Loyola, so exciting.”
While archival Calvert Hall College High School put up the most points against the Dons in a championship meet during Buese’s career, the Dons produced 613 points of their own to complete the MIAA three-peat in his senior campaign.
By the midpoint of the event, Buese had already been part of a meet-record winning 200-yard medley relay with senior Mitch Williams, junior Sammy Logue and sophomore Alex Blair and had won also the 200 individual medley.
The Loyola star then set a league record while winning the 500 freestyle in MIAA-record and All-American time of 4:27.46 while also recording All-American times 200 IM (1:47.89), 200 freestyle (1:38.31) and 100 backstroke (49.69) as a senior.
That was the only time Cole swam the 500 freestyle event because of the great diversity Loyola had on its team that year, Loyola coach Keith Schertle said.
“I was planning to swim the 100 fly that year as my second event,” Buese remembered. “I had heard that one of my teammates wanted to swim it that year and try to get the record — he usually swam the 500 free. He approached me and asked if we could make the switch, and I was more than happy to let him. I was certainly more of a middle-distance swimmer, but with all of the yardage Keith had the team doing, almost all of us could swim the event. As a result, I knew I would have gas in the tank on the back-half, so I did not hold back on the first 300 or so of the race.”
Schertle never hesitated to offer Buese daunting challenges.
“At The National Catholics, Cole swam the 200 free in 1:38.31, which would also have been an MIAA meet record if done at the MIAA Championships,” the coach added. “All of his times would have been top-five in league history and his 500 free still stands — and if he had swum the 200 free or the 200 IM at the MIAA championships they would have been records and would still stand today.”
Schertle said that Buese’s talent was easy to see.
“Cole was smooth and effortless-looking in the water,” the coach said. “It was a real joy to see swim, and everyone liked him. He swam whatever event I asked him to swim.”
His versatility did not go unnoticed, considering he was recruited to swim at Princeton University where he had an outstanding career in the Ivy League.
Buese also qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 200 butterfly, 200 backstroke and 400 freestyle.
With the Tigers, Buese earned second-team All-Ivy League honors in both the 200 butterfly and 200 freestyle relay as a junior and was an integral part of two dramatic final sessions to help Princeton rally past Harvard to win the Ivy League title.
According to the goprincetontigers.com website, the senior co-captain was one of Princeton’s highest-scoring swimmers over his career, although one lacking a “missing piece to his Tiger résumé” until winning the 200 backstroke in his final Ivy League championship meet, after finishing second at the Ivy event in the 200 butterfly a year earlier.
McDonogh coach Scott Ward said that Buese’s skill and versatility set him apart.
“He was such a prolific swimmer across so many events,” Ward said. “And that made it challenging when we swam against Loyola, because we didn’t know where Keith was going to put him. Cole had the ability to be an All-American in almost every event.”