Top teams: Downers Grove North, Naperville Central, Waubonsie Valley, Addison Trail/Willowbrook co-op.
Top swimmers and divers: Addison Trail/Willobrook Co-op: Kelly McNamara, free/fly, jr.; Gabriella Morrone, free, jr.; Molly Kuenstler, free, sr.; Benet: Kate Joyce, free/fly, sr.; Mary Claire Webb, sprint, jr.; Ally Michaels, free/fly/back, fr.; Downers Grove North: Gabby Sims, free/back, sr.; Maddy Sims free/utility, sr.; Emily Albrecht, sprint, jr.; Gabrielle Serniute, free/IM/breast, jr.; Daria Wick, fly/free, jr.; Emily Aument, diver, fr.; Elizabeth Aument, diver, fr.; Glenbard West /South (co-op): Meg Beese, back, sr.; Hinsdale Central: Margaret Kaufman, free, jr. Margie McCarthy, diver, jr.; Marley Marano, diver, sr.; Olivia Yu, back, sr.; Hinsdale South: Rachael Hawken, back, jr.; Lake Park: Jessica Warfield, free/back, sr.; Angela Shaw, IM, sr.; Danielle Wojciechowski, diver, jr.; Metea Valley: Amanda Burson, free, so.; Madie Sandberg, free, so.; Hannah Davidson, back, jr. Naperville Central: Sydney Weeks, breast, so.; Erin Stevens, free, sr.; Kamryn Gallowich, back, jr., Sophia Heiser, diver, jr.; Sydney Dusel, diver, so.; Naperville North: Devin Jacobs, free, jr.; Katie Horn, sprint, so.; Sarah Thomas, free, sr.; Neuqua Valley: Grace Soltys, free, sr.; Natalie McGovern, back, jr.; Mackenzie Hornstra, breast, jr.; Kaitlyn Gorski, distance free, sr.; Waubonsie Valley: Madeline Hunt, free/back, sr.; Alexa Steffl, fly/breast, sr.; Avery Mathew, breast/free/IM so.; Wheaton co-op: Hannah Olsen, free, jr.; Sarah Bradley, diver, sr.; Amanda Stiegel, free, jr.; Amy Smith, sprint, sr.; York: Paula Nolte, breast, so.
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Outlook: Four of the Naperville schools finished in the top 20 at last year's state meet, while Benet just missed and Metea Valley continued to advance toward the top level of state contenders. While graduation took some of last year's highest achievers, including two-event state swimming champion Gia Dalesandro, state diving champion Taylor Kramer of Benet, plus Julia Roller of Naperville Central and the great senior class at Naperville North, there's still plenty of talent around to put many of the locals back into the mix of state contenders.
When talking about DuPage swimming prospects, Downers Grove North, which returns just about everyone from a team that finished sixth last year, is really at the head of the line. Neuqua Valley, which finished third last year by placing all three relays in the top six, will feel the loss of Dalesandro and several of her mates who accomplished great things the past few years. The Wildcats are regrouping under new coach Jason Niforatos, but it's not like the Wildcats are starting from scratch. Captains Soltys and Gorski, juniors McGovern and Hornstra are looking to score in their individual events and lead the team's efforts to another year of relay race glory.
"We're not where we were last year," Niforatos said. "We're deep and talented across the board, but we need our state-scoring level people to develop. Members of a strong freshman class could have a lot to say about our prospects at the end of the season."
Naperville Central finished seventh with the graduated Roller (second in the IM and fifth in the fly) doing a lot of the heavy lifting, but there are talented Redhawks coming back. Boys two-time state champion coach Mike Adams takes over the girls program this year, and he's pleased with the Redhawks' chances with an outstanding nucleus led by Weeks, Stevens, Gallowich and divers Heiser, seventh at state, and Dusel.
"There's no Julia, but we're deep with talented girls who will contribute to what we do at the end of the year," Adams said.
Naperville North boys coach Andy McWhirter also expands his duties to the fall season and he is welcomed by a team that was hit hard by graduation of at least a half-dozen girls who figured in last year's 12th place finish. The versatile Jacobs is capable of scoring in any event and will provide leadership in the relays. "Last year we could put the sectional lineup together in October," McWhirter said. "This year everything is wide open."
Waubonsie Valley's top-20 finish was spearheaded by Hunt, who took fourth in the 50 free and seventh in the 100 backstroke. She's pushing to finish higher in both her state races. "Maddie will do well in any event," said Waubonsie coach Katie Peterson. Steffl is another great returner for the Warriors.
Benet finished just outside the top 20 and the Redwings lose Kramer, who accounted for all their points. But coach Sarah Maggio has a solid group of state qualifiers such as Joyce and Webb who look ready to take that next step and become state scorers. Freshman Michaels is one to watch.
Metea Valley is a team on the rise. The Mustangs were young last year but freshmen Burson, seventh in the 100 free, is a brilliant young sprinter. Mark Jager, the boys coach who takes over the girls program, will be looking for rapid improvement from last year's strong freshman and sophomore classes.
Wheaton co-op, with its usual complement of impressive returnees will give the Napervilles a challenge in the DuPage Valley Conference, and Lake Park, which joins the DVC, returns a solid group of veterans led by Warfield led byturns from an ACL injury.
And that brings us to Downers Grove North, which is, by any measure, one of the top teams in the state. Everyone returns from last year's group that finished sixth and that includes Gabby Sims, the champ in the 100 free and runner-up in the backstroke. Just about everyone returns from the relays. "This is the most talented group I've ever had," coach Judy Busse said. "We're deep and fast and we're still young. We have a group of underclassmen who will be on the sectional team. It would be great to think this is our trophy year."
Addison Trail/Willowbrook is expecting another good season. They're led by McNamara, who finished sixth in the butterfly and potential scorers Morrone and Kuenstler. The relays should be strong.
Hinsdale Central is in a transition year after suffering heavy graduation losses. However, the return of a pair of great divers in McCarthy, third at state, and Marano, ninth, and a strong freshman class, give coach Bob Barber causes for optimism.
Glenbard West/South co-op boasts standout Beese, who is expected to finish top-12 in the backstroke. Hinsdale South, led by Hawken, is looking to extend its string of four conference championships.
Key dates: Sept. 14: Neuqua Valley Invite; Sept. 21: West Chicago Wildcat Invite; Sept. 27-28: Downers Grove North Team Challenge; Oct. 8: Naperville North at Naperville Central; Oct. 10: Hinsdale Central Diving Invite; Oct. 17: Waubonsie Valley at Neuqua Valley; Oct. 19: Lake Park at Wheaton co-op; Oct. 25: Metea Valley Mustang Invite; Nov. 2: conference meets; Nov. 16: sectional meets; Nov. 22-23 state meet.