Top teams:Hinsdale Central, Metea Valley, Naperville Central, Waubonsie Valley.
Top swimmers and divers:Addison Trail/Willowbrook Co-op: R.L. Aldridge, sr.; Kevin Grygo, sr.; Jason Sechan, sr.; Benet: Stephen Spittler, sr.; Mike Cortesio, jr. Paddy Lawler, sr.; Bram Williams, jr.; J.P. McAveeney, fr.; Downers Grove North: John Derrig, sr.; Bob Bonanno, jr.; Downers Grove South: Mike Tegeler, so.; Josh Jaegar (diver), sr.; Hinsdale Central: Brian Portland, jr.; Franco Reyes, fr.; Adam Pircon, jr.; Craig Smith, so.; Brian Powell, jr.; Banistre Lienhart, sr.; Sam Pielet (diver), sr.; Hinsdale South: Jason Yang, jr.; Kedrick Shin, jr.; David Kulhavey, jr. Lake Park: Sean Gregor, sr.; Kevin Siciak, sr.; Mitchell Carzoli, sr.; Jack Reilly (diver) sr. ; Metea Valley: Matt Salerno, jr.; Jordan O'Brien, jr.; Alex Dillmann,so.; Trevor Sandberg, sr.; Alex Walter, sr.; Kevin Kluge, so.; Naperville Central:Joe Gucwa (diver) sr.; Peter Rusenas, (diver), sr.; Connor Lamb, sr.; Scott Piper, so.; Eric Gerlach, so.; Naperville North: Albert Yao, sr.; Steven Missak, sr.; Brandon Chen, fr.; Keegin Riggs, fr.; Thomas Petersen (diver) jr.; Neuqua Valley: Drew Dvorchak, sr.; Joe Widuch, jr.; Brett Whaley, jr.; Ian Ivkovich, jr.; Kyle Wilkins (diver) jr.; Waubonsie Valley: Bailey York, sr.; Nathan Morris, sr. Michael Schwers, so.; Kai Motoyama, so, Eric Weng, fr.; West Chicago/Batavia co-op: Alex Laleian, sr; Karsten Cook, sr.; Aidan Culloton, sr.; Wheaton Academy: Brendan Howley, sr. Tyler Sesvold, fr.; Wheaton co-op: Max St. George, jr.; Tommy Reminger, sr.; Matt Rogers, jr.; Luke Cooperman (diver) so.
Outlook: The race for bragging rights to District 204 supremacy could be the most interesting contest in the boys high school swimming and diving world this season. While Metea Valley is regarded by many coaches as the preseason favorite, the two older schools, Waubonsie Valley and Neuqua Valley, will both be formidable challengers. Metea Valley is thought of as a team that is capable of making a splash at the state meet. The Mustangs are led by a couple of superstars in Salerno, who finished sixth at state in both the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke, and O'Brien, who was 10th in the breaststroke and could move into the top six in that and possibly another individual event this year. "Matt and Jordan are both stronger this year," said Metea coach Mark Jager. "They both love to work hard and their achievements and their work ethic impact our whole group." Dillmann made great strides since last season and should be a major contributor. "We're still a young team," Jager said. "And we have to stay humble despite everybody's high expectations. We won't know for sure how good we are until we get there."
Waubonsie Valley, which finished ninth at state, suffered some significant graduation losses, including Adam Stacklin, who finished second in the 100 freestyle and fourth in the 200 free. But there's a nucleus of solid veterans led by York and Morris and an emerging group of underclassmen who will be determined to help the Warriors succeed again in the postseason. "We don't have that one big scorer," said Waubonsie Valley coach Nick Arens. "But we have a lot of guys who have breakout potential and our senior leadership puts us in a good position going into this season."
Neuqua Valley, which is led by Dvorchak, who finished 10th in the 100 butterfly, has gone through something of a rebuilding process the past two years and this year's group of talented underclassmen looks ready to reach that next level. "Our junior and sophomore classes are solid," said Neuqua Valley coach Chad Allen. "We're on the rise and we'll keep getting better the next few years. Depthwise, we're there with anybody."
Over in the DuPage Valley Conference, Naperville Central is another team with good depth The Redhawks have a lot of guys with equal ability. "We gained lot of experience last year," said Redhawks coach Mike Adams. "We were a young team, but now our people have been through a whole season and we think they get it now. Our goal is to get kids to the state meet and ready to score." Divers Gucwa and Rusenas, both state qualifiers, are both definite assets.
Naperville North has some rebuilding to do after graduating a ton of talent the past two years, but coach Andy McWhirter expects Yao, an IMer and a breaststroker, and Missak, a freestyler to get to state as individuals and on relays. "They were a little hidden behind our great swimmers the past two years," McWhirter said. "But now they have the opportunity to shine and showcase the talent they've always had." The Huskies are counting on big time drops from a lot of their younger swimmers late in the season. Wheaton co-op has good depth and balance and coach Jacob Ayers is counting on his troops to score some points at state. St. George, who has added size and muscle, Reminger and Rogers are all state-qualifiers who can take the next step and put some points up on the board. "We have some good freshmen and sophomores who can fill the relay spots created by our graduation losses," Ayers said. "We have good balance and depth and the guys are looking to qualify and do better at state."
New to the DVC battles this year is Lake Park, which has an outstanding leader in Gregor, a two-time qualifier who can swim just about anything. There are some talented people in support including diver Reilly who qualified last year, but the Lancers just don't have the numbers to compete with the Naperville schools in conference meets. "You can see it throughout our team that everyone did a tremendous amount of work during the summer," coach Dan Witteveen said. "We expect Gregor to have a breakout season, and the others will train hard. We'll see where the chips fall when the state meet comes around."
West Chicago/Batavia co-op has a few potential qualifiers in Lalelian, Cook and Culloton but is also short of the numbers needed to compete with the bigger programs in the DVC.
Hinsdale Central had an outstanding season, finishing second to state champ New Trier. And while a number of outstanding seniors graduated, the returning lettermen have known success and they're primed for more. The leader is Portland, who placed 12th in the 100 fly and swam on all three top-six relays, The Red Devils' 200 freestyle relay team won it all. Lienhart and Powell are others who were on those state relays. "Our depth isn't nearly what it was last year," coach Corky King said. "We need a few of the fringe guys to step up to replace the guys from the state lineup. We could have few more individual qualifiers this year."
Downers Grove North is a young team with a host of hopefuls who should excel down the road and the Glenbard West/Glenbard South co-op team is a work in progress that will look to improve as the season goes on.
Benet is led by some speedy returnees and several are capable of making the state cut. Wheaton Academy's Howley and freshman Sesvold should qualify and give the Warriors at least half of a promising relay team. Downers Grove South and Hinsdale South will be competing for the West Suburban Gold title and Addison Trail/Willowbrook co-op should have a strong medley relay team.
Key dates: Dec. 14: Wildcat Relays at West Chicago; Dec. 21: Neuqua Valley Invite; Dec. 28: Naperville North College Events; Jan. 4 Waubonsie Valley Aqua Pentathlon; Jan. 11: Hinsdale South College Events; Jan. 18: Hinsdale Central Diving Invite; Jan. 24-25: Downers Grove North Trojan Invite; Feb. 1: Metea Valley Mustang Invite; Feb. 7-8: Conference meets; Feb. 22: Sectionals ; Feb. 28-March 1: State Meet at Evanston Township High School.
-- Neil Shalin