When Naperville North started the season there was some uncertainty about who would replace the powerful group of graduates who led the Huskies to a second-place finish at state last year.
The nucleus was there with returning state qualifiers Sam Hiller and Eric Curia, but coach Andy McWhirter knew that a group of supporting players would have to step into featured roles for the Huskies to make noise in the postseason.
That cast has shown definite signs of arriving. Steven Missak, Kevin Kielma, Albert Yao, John Moosemiller and diver Thomas Patterson are working hard to give the Huskies what could be an impressive sectional lineup next month.
Last weekend the Huskies chalked up a victory in a dual meet against Neuqua Valley on Friday and then followed that with an impressive fifth-place finish at the New Trier Relays.
"This is a completely different team than last year," McWhirter said. "We have two key state swimmers in Hiller and Curia, but the other kids are filling out our relays and some of them have a good shot at qualifying in individual events as well."
The coach calls Missak, a junior who won both the 50 and the 100 freestyle against Neuqua Valley, an up-and-coming star with a great work ethic.
"Steven is a quiet kid who just goes out and does the work," McWhirter said. "He's been busting his tail to qualify in the 50 and the 100 free, and he's also on the 200 and 400 free relays teams. Kielma has been dropping times all season in the 100 butterfly, and he's looking to qualify in that event. And Yao is really coming on in the 100 breaststroke."
Moosemiller, who has a chance for state in one of several events, joined Hiller, Missak and Curia on both free relays that won at Neuqua.
"Their goal is to score at state in the free relays," McWhirter said.
Add that to the 200 medley relay team -- Thomas Petersen, who recently broke the school's freshman-sophomore diving record that has stood since 1982; Hiller who is among the best in Illinois in the 200 free and 100 backstroke; Curia, the veteran distance man in the 500 free -- and you've got the makings of a pretty solid contingent of Huskies on deck at state.
"We're not getting breakout times, but we're swimming consistently," McWhirter said. "And that's important at this time of the year."
Watch for Wheaton:
Wheaton co-op has one of its deepest teams in years and looks to be a factor at state.
The strong nucleus is led by senior freestyler J.T. Simoneau, a three-time state qualifier, who finished just outside the top dozen in both the 200 and 100 free at state. He's hoping to take that next step and finish among the scorers this year.
Behind Simoneau is a talented group of potential qualifiers who have a shot at scoring.
These include junior Tommy Reminger, who could make it in the 100 butterfly and the 500 free, plus sophomores Matt Rogers and Max St. George and senior sprinter James Hasbrouck.
These five, all of whom will be tapering for state, should make up the lineup for the three relays, which according to coach Jacob Ayers have a chance to score at state.
Freshman diver Luke Cooperman is also hoping to qualify.
"We have good depth and balance this year with a couple of good guys for each stroke at sectionals," Ayers said. "This could be our year to give it a good shot at state."
Points for the Lancers:
Lake Park may not have the depth to compete for the team championship at weekend invites, but the Lancers have a few outstanding veterans who could score some points at state.
Junior Sean Gregor is a returning state qualifier who could score in both the 100 and 200 freestyle races. He joins teammates Jacob Vance, Ben Fisher and Kevin Siciak, on two free relay teams that have a shot at the top 12.
Vance, a senior, also qualified for state last year and is a possible scorer in the 100 breaststroke and/or a freestyle race.
Fisher, a senior captain who put in some hard training in the off-season, is a candidate in the breaststroke as well.
Add Siciak, a junior, who could qualify in the 500 freestyle, and he completes the foursome who should be representing the Lancers at state.
Lake Park diver Jack Reily, a junior, qualified for state last year and his results this year indicate he could move up to the top level at state. And Zak Repika is working hard and showing the scores that could give the Lancers a second diver at the state meet.
"We have a cohesive team," said Lake Park coach Dan Witteveen. "The guys are very close and they just want to go out there and have fun. Fisher is a leader who really gets us going. As a coach, it's just fun to be with this group. They make me smile every day."