The Broncos lost some key participants to graduation, the kind who scored points at the state meet, in Jack Strauss, Kyle Ujiiye and Chris Vega. Replacing them would be an impossible task, but Barrington has plenty of capable holdovers from last year's conference champion squad that figure to keep the Broncos as one of the toughest teams in the Mid-Suburban League. Sebastian Piekarski, Brandon Baranowski, Connor Kobida and Sam Miseyka each competed in the state meet individually and/or on relays. Others with plenty of experience include junior Chase Lesniak and senior David Kline. Coach John Valentine expects a talented incoming freshman class to challenge for relays spots and provide depth; some of the key members of that group are Andrew Fish, Mitch Gavars, Max Gersten, Will Hobbs, John Lagoni, Riley Lehmann and Colin O'Leary. The Broncos can make a claim that not many teams can -- they have three-fourths of a relay that scored points in the state meet back, with medley relay vets Baranowski, Miseyka and Piekarski. That core is strong enough to put Barrington ahead of any of its West competitors in terms of returning swimmers.
The Cougars will be ready for anything, which is about what they should expect. With its home pool scheduled to begin renovation in January, Conant has plans to practice at other Dist. 211 pools for the latter half of the season, so coach Brian Drenth knows it will be hard to get into any kind of steady routine. The Cougars will be without graduated standout Jon Burke, who placed third in the state last year in the 500-yard freesyle, along with some other key members of last year's team. That will necessarily change the profile of the squad, which has been senior-rich of late, having graduated 19 in each of the past two years. This year, Conant has four seniors -- Kaz Morita, Ryan O'Connor, Kodey Visitacion and Sam Park. But Drenth welcomes the challenge. "Our unofficial motto around here these days is 'Change.' We are fielding a young team that is eager to raise themselves to the next level. I have been really excited by what we have already accomplished in practices, and the great work ethic they have demonstrated." They key juniors are William Chen, Nate Claussen, Kevin Courtney, Jacob Lawson, Connor Schmitz, Yuya Matsuo, Keisuke Harada, James Tokarz, Matthew Grabowski, Paul DeLutio and Sebastian Peters. "I look forward to seeing lots of guys challenging each other throughout the year for conference and sectional spots," Drenth said. "It's going to be an exciting year to watch these athletes compete each day."
Coach Keith Kura has plenty to look forward to as the Grens gear up for a year of achievement. As a sophomore last season, Colin Williams set school records in both the 200 free and 100 fly at the sectional meet. The fly is his better race at the moment, but he may have an opportunity to make a state meet cut by season's end. Another standout, Krystian Szczepaniak, broke the school record in the 100 breaststroke last winter and may also be in the state-meet picture. Pairing Williams and Szcepaniak with two more relay swimmers could provide an opportunity for more school records to fall. Kura expect the candidates for those relay spots to be senior Alex Pauls, junior Chris Doruff and sophomore Michael Banasik.
The Vikings, runner-up to Barrington in the Mid-Suburban League last year, have made a habit of producing terrific swims toward the end of the season, and coach Kristen Newby expect more of the same this winter. Fremd graduated state point-scoring sprinter Andrew King but has many of the cast back from a team that finished 7-1 against MSL foes in duals. Key established competitors include Michael Chemello (100-200 free), Connor Helsdingen (sprints) and Nick Pappas (200 IM, 200 free). Newby counts Joey Carlisle, Nick Seroni and Joe Mayer among the newcomers who could make a difference for the Vikings, who hope to send three relays to the state meet and figure to have excellent dual meet depth. "This is going to be a big year for the future of our program," Newby said. "We have the kids and attitudes necessary to make big changes for the future."
Coach Joe Arce's first season with the Hawks last year was memorable, as seniors Nick Jessee and Sang Han produced terrific state-qualifying finales to their standout careers and helped lead the way to an upper-division finish in the Mid-Suburban League. Now comes the hard part -- extending that legacy of achievement. "I couldn't have walked into a better situation last year," said Arce. "On top of being great swimmers, those two were great leaders." Arce's team this year will be lead by juniors Jacob Passaye, Bartosz Widelak and Joey Smiley and freshman Andy Hobar. The coach says getting a bunch of them to state individually might be a long shot this year, but that doesn't mean the overriding goals have changed much. "Last year, we had 100 percent lifetime bests. We'd like to repeat that this year."
Coach Dick Mortensen is in new territory this year after having to make cuts for his boys team this winter for the first time. With some 58 participants, the Huskies' main challenge will be finding enough spots for everyone to practice and race. Sheer numbers, though, won't replace state meet competitors Jamey Hill and Samuel Kim, who have graduated. But the abilities of seniors Jack Carroll, Connor Reynolds and Mike Buffa will go a long way toward Hersey's effort this year, and a big junior class which includes varsity veteran Paul Kim bodes well for the next two seasons. Junior Danny Obstrycz will give Hersey a lift in diving. Mortensen is hoping the experienced swimmers he has can help set the tone for achievement. Buffa and Reynolds were part of the Huskies' state-qualifying medley relay last season. "We're looking to build off that," Mortensen said. "The MSL East is so competitive this year -- we could finish up anywhere between first and fifth."
The Pirates graduated some key components from last year's team in Christian Kalfas and Robert Hank. Yet on balance, last year's edition was young and talented, and now coach Kyle Sorensen is hoping for continued development in a group that's now heavy on seniors. Senior Mike Myszka and juniors Conor Ehrenstrom and Colin White will captain the team; the top returners figure to be senior Omar El Hoffi (sprints, breaststroke), and three versatile athletes -- junior Jacob Baran (freestyles, backstroke) and sophomores Marcus Carter-Buckmann and Jordan Kalina -- who already have been key conference and sectional performers. Junior Dylan Wilken and sophomore Matt Wang will lead the way in diving, and Sorensen expects freshmen Alex Bartosik and Arnas Maciunas to have an immediate varsity impact. "I am very excited to get this season started," said Sorensen. "A very unique year for us, as we have another very large team. We have 18 seniors leading a team with a lot of potential and young talent."
Coach Alfonso Lopez has plenty too look forward to this winter -- and with five sets of brothers on the team, plenty of first names to keep track of, too. This is a team with lots of depth, along with elite talent. Senior Nathanael Ginnodo qualified for state last year in the 100 breast but will also be key in the 200 IM, 100 free and 100 fly this season. Junior Michael Morikado is the Knights' top returner in the 500 free, 200 IM and sprints. Senior Carter Mau is the top returning sprinter, and junior Sam Gabriel is the top returning backstroker. Keys in the younger-brother category are sophomores Isaac Ginnodo (breast, IM, fly), Alex Morikado (distance free, IM) and Jack Gabriel (who swims just about anything). Senior Jake Holycross is a top returning sprinter, along with Nick Tuczak. Juniors Tyler Culliton, Apurva Belsare, Kishan Trivedi along with sophomore Ryan Lakner will have a role, and junior Stephen Schmit will lead the diving crew. Lopez expects freshmen Nick Partipilo and Alex Jarosz to have a varsity impact as well. Partipilo is versatile and figures to be help to the sprint relays, while Jarosz will bolster the distance freestyles. All of which adds up to a Prospect team with high hopes. "We're hoping to replicate what the girls team did and win the MSL East this year," Lopez said. "Our task will be tough, as the East looks really deep this year throughout. Fast times and hard work should put us in a position for success."
The Mustangs used last season as a collective year of learning, as an exceptionally young (but capable) group started to grow up. With only one senior graduated from that team, Rolling Meadows is brimming with optimism. Breaststroker Jake Barson was a fingernail away from making the state meet last year and returns to lead the way this winter. A collection of sophomores and juniors who were keys last year are all back and still improving: Tony Sarussi, Ryan Smith, Bennett Cullen, Kuba Debkowski, Tim McDonough, David Myers, Jon Windhorst and Joey Ure. Coach Monika Chiappetta has four new additions that could have an impact on the varsity level in Filip Pancerz, Kamil Halaj, Alex Nikitn and Jack Malleck. Put it all together and Meadows is eager to get going. "Goal for this season is to break more than half our school records and qualify more than one individual (to the state meet)," Chiappetta said. "And hopefully, a relay or two."
Paul Desruisseaux takes over as Saxons head coach after assisting in the program last season. The onetime Fremd standout -- he excelled on Paul Reeff's championship teams in 1994 and 1995 -- has an extensive background in coaching, with a mix of head and assistant high school stints at Naperville Central, Lincoln-Way East, Homewood-Flossmoor and Marmion. He's taking a positive approach with a team light on numbers but long on optimism, and with a short-term goal of simply improving. Desruisseaux expects divers Matt Sigler and Adam Maslowski to lead the way this year; the Saxons' senior captains are Dan Skiroock and Mike Walsh. The main points figure to come from Skiroock, sophomores Tyler Gustafon (free) and Evan Wahlen (IM, fly, distance) and freshman Sam Thomas (IM, breast), but Desruisseaux is keeping an open mind about how things will shake out by the end of the season if the some basic swimming fundamentals are followed. "We have three goals as a team," Desruisseaux says. "Have fun, build a team of brotherhood and togetherness, and maximize individual time drops. That is your lane, that is your clock -- drop your time."
As coach Tod Schwager begins his sixth season with the Wildcats, Wheeling is really starting to make some waves. Two individuals -- Bryce Maczko and Jake Noel -- qualified for the state meet last year. And there are enough top-level competitors near that same level to give Wheeling hope for more individual and collective achievement this winter. Kyle Noel, Dave Modlin, Justin Loquercio, Nate Reiff, Noah Ihde and Winston Derry give Wheeling the kind of top-end talent base that led to a fourth-place MSL finish last season, and there's every reason to believe they'll again be near the top of the conference. Before that, the Wildcats hope to be a key player in an MSL East divisional race where every dual meet will count. Schwager hopes his group can challenge for the the East crown. "All the division meets look to be real close this year," he said, "so it should be an exciting season."