Barrington -- The Broncos have a compelling collection of swimmers. Seniors Jack Strauss and Kyle Ujiye were among the state's best last season, and they're versatile. Strauss is dominant in the 50 free through the 200 but can swim virtually any event in a dual meet. Ujiye excels in the 100 fly and had already been clocked at 51.25 this season. He's also an elite sprint freestyler. Both Strauss and Ujiye qualified for the state meet individually last season, with Strauss scoring points in the 200 freestyle. Connor Kobida, a junior, is a two-time state qualifier in the 100 breaststroke. Sebastian Piekarski has done nothing but improve in the sprints, along with Chris Vega. Add in varsity-ready freshman distance standout Sean Rodney, and it sure looks like the Broncos have all the bases covered. Barrington did lose two-time MSL diving champion Nolan Presmyk to graduation but have loads of depth, including at least a new face or two who are already helping the varsity lineup. Barrington's collective strength was on display last weekend as the Broncos took top honors in the relay meet they hosted; the field featured some of the state's top teams, including Lake Forest. Preseason rankings by Swimming In Illinois had Barrington ranked No. 18 in the state, which now seems pretty conservative for this bunch.
Buffalo Grove -- Ian Rodriguez and Jon Mass left their imprint on the program in so many ways; it may take a while for this year's version of Bison swimming to establish its own identity. Coach Jamie Klotz has the kind of athletes to do just that, though. Returning state qualifier Matt Schulstad is a great starting point; the flyer and IMer is also strong in the freestyles and gives the Bison a great starting point from which to build. KC Lotzer and Nick Poirier have shown improvement, and Klotz says Matt Perek's hard work in the distance freestyles and IM is yielding big time drops. Dan Boukas will continue to supply depth in the sprints. Klotz has high hopes for Zach Augustyn, especially by season's end, and Chris Schulstad will contribute in the distance races. Brandon Hausfeld is proving to be an important piece of the dual meet puzzle as the 2011-12 MSL East champs try to defend their title.
Conant -- No doubt the Cougars will miss departed seniors Alan Wojciechowski and Brandon Grzegorek, not to mention the other 17 swimmers who were a key part of the Mid-Suburban League champs' successes last season. But few teams in the area have as much talent coming back, either. Jonathon Burke joined the elite in the distance freestyles last year, placing fifth in the 500 free at the state meet. Alex Shozda set team records in the 50 free and is a real threat to score individually at the state meet. Likewise for Martin Pozniak, a versatile backstroke and butterflyer. Sprint freestyler Zon Wang is another familiar face who contributed to the Cougars' terrific season last winter. Coach Brian Drenth says the challenge for this year's team is harnessing its strength in numbers in the frosh-soph bracket. "No question, we have some people we think will be swimming in the state meet at the end of this year," he said. "But this isn't last year's team. You just don't get seniors classes like the one we had last year very often." Figure on important contributions from Adrian Lisowski, Kazuki Morita, Takuma Tanabe, Kyle Bradberry and diver Bartek Turek. The upside for this group is high, and other have noticed. The Cougars received the No. 12 ranking from Swimming In Illinois and were also tabbed as the publication's "darkhorse team."
Elk Grove -- The leading contributors for the Grens figure to be breaststroker Krystian Szczepaniak and Bart Kosciarz and Colin Willams (fly, sprints). Szczepaniak and Kosciarz are strongest in the same events -- breaststroke and the IM -- and coach Keith Kura says they've been pushing one another nicely in those races. One surprise has been Kyle Phillips, who's already had personal bests in the 50 free and 100 free. Kura thinks the aforementioned three plus Chris Doruff have a chance at breaking school records in all three relays before the season is through. "The guys have set some tough goals and are working hard to achieve them," Kura said.
Fremd -- Last season was rebuilding year for the Vikings, and the foundation they started is starting to pay dividends. Dennis Kostidis was suffering from illness at the end of last winter, but he's healthy again and reliably providing winning efforts wherever the team needs the versatile two-time state meet qualifier. Senior sprint freestyler Andrew King took huge time drops at the end of last season and is looking like the kind of swimmer that will be around in the championship heats of the MSL meet. Nick Pappas impressed with his taper swims at the sectional meet and also has taken a sharp leap forward. Coach Kristen Newby has a nice group of complementary swimmers that make Fremd a deep team and particularly tough in duals -- among them, Roshan Rajan, Matt Zambelli, Connor Helsdingen, Andrew Mueller, Michael Chemello, Adam Rivara, Dylan Assman, JP French and Max Provan. Beyond that, Newby says the team's strength is in the high numbers of freshman and sophomores on the roster.
Hersey -- Jamey Hill (distance) and Samuel Kim (fly, sprints) are the top returning swimmers for the Huskies, but the real story may be how many others are ready to contribute. The early season results suggest the answer is: plenty. Connor Reynolds and Jack Carroll are excelling in the sprints, Paul Kim has been strong in the IM and fly, and Mike Buffa, Tom Blythe and Dan Rink will all be high-level contributors. Hersey also has a diving tandem of Mat Obstoj and Jack Kintzle that few MSL teams will be able to match. Figure the Huskies as one of the top teams in the MSL East, especially in the dual format. "Our goal, like everyone else, is to qualify some kids for the state meet," said Hersey coach Dick Mortensen. "Sam, Jamey, and Mat have put themselves in a great position with their off-season work to qualify."
Hoffman Estates -- Coach Joe Arce takes over after Josh Schumacher stepped away to tend to domestic issues (three daughters, including an infant, under the age of 5). Arce's got a lot to work with, as two Hawks individuals had breakthrough seasons last year, freestyler Nick Jessee and breaststroker/sprinter Sang Han. They're both seniors and swimming better than ever, on track for repeat state meet appearances. Jessee's best event is the 200 free but he's capable enough to deliver dual wins in just about any event; Han is a terrific freestyle sprinter in addition to his team-record breaststroke abilities. Sprinter Adam Pasnicki had a leg with Han and Jessee on the Hawks' team record setting freestyle relays last season, and he's also back. Other contributing in the early going include Bartosz Widelak, Logan Gizel, Salman Akthar, Nick Hobar, Justin Hughes, Jacob Passaye, Luke Iehl and Joey Smiley.
Maine West -- The Warriors sure have a great starting point for their team, as senior Brian Wasicak, a two-time state qualifier in the 100 breaststroke, returns for his senior season. He's also strong in the IM and distance freestyles, giving the Warriors lots of lineup flexibility. Mike Connor, the team record holder in the 100 and 200 freestyles, is also back, along with proven varsity performers such as Matt Boesche and Mike Picchiotti. Another Connor, Tony, is contributing in the freestyles, and Cory Winiecki is leading the way in diving for the Warriors.
Palatine -- Coach Kyle Sorenson suddenly has a team with some depth and above-average lineup flexibility. That's what a strong crop of freshman newcomers can do for you, but the coach is quick to point out that it's the other end of the age spectrum -- notably seniors Christian Kalfas and Robert Hank -- who are setting the tone for his team. Kalfas excels in the sprint freestyles and Hank's best event is the 100 back, but both will be important tactically in other events in duals. Breaststroker Omar El Hoffi and butterflyer Michael Myszka have both taken big steps forward, sophomore Jacob Baran and freshman Jordan Kalina are having a big varsity impact, and Sorenson is pleased with how the diving corps has contributed in duals so far. It's a big step forward for a team that missed out on participating in the state meet last season, and optimism is the rule of the day for the Pirates. "We feel like we've got the kind of group that can give some other teams some trouble," said Sorenson. "We have the right kind of attitude, and everybody's excited about just getting better."
Prospect -- Expect the common refrain of Prospect's foes to be, 'Oh, brother.' That's foremost because the Knights will be tough to beat, but also because there are five sets of brothers competing for coach Alfonso Lopez. Ginnodo, Gabriel and Morikado will be among the most prominant sibling combos. Nathanael Ginnodo gives the Knights a first-rate IM-breastroke threat and is already equaling his sectional performances of last year. Andrew Younger is solid from sprint through middle-distance freestyles; Michael Morikado is the top butterflyer. Liam Hansen and Sam Gabriel lead the way in the backstroke, with Ryan Lakner close behind. Carter Mau and Tyler Culliton and Apurva Belsare are helping in sprint freestyle and butterfly. Marc Pontello, Jacob Holycross and Isaac Ginnodo will contribute in breaststroke, and freshmen Alex Morikado and Jack Gabriel will lead the distance corps. Spencer Trumpp is the only returning diver, but three others -- Stephen Schmit, Stephen Mutzabaugh and Ben Hart -- are also contributing. "Overall our team is looking fairly solid at this point in the season," said Lopez. "We're trying to get through our waves of sickness and make sure we are healthy for our meets, but the focus of the team is strong and we're hoping to be in the conversation for the MSL East title when the season wraps up."
Rolling Meadows -- Breaststroker Jake Barson continues to make impressive gains for coach Monika Chiappetta and a Mustangs program that is still, relative to other teams in the MSL, young. But there's also ability at Rolling Meadows, and Chiappetta is excited about what she's seeing from Barson, a sophomore who was named a team captain. "He has a very strong vision of how the regular season needs to go, and then a serious plan for the championship season," Chiappetta said. At present, Meadows' championship lineup would feature 4 freshmen, 5 sophomores and one senior, Szymon Ciasnocha. He's also a captain along with Jason Scheele; the sophs are Barson, Ryan Smith, Joey Ure, Tony Sarussi and Tim McDonough; the frosh are David Myers, Kuba Debkowski, Jon Windhorst and Bennett Cullen. Meadows' plan is to eventually turn its high turnout into strength at the varsity level. "I have been blessed with the biggest team Rolling Meadows has ever seen," said Chiappetta. "They are not afraid to push themselves to exhaustion or pain -- it is a true joy. I am so excited what is in store for these kids." The Mustangs also figure to have two of the league's best divers in Alex del Bosque and Matt Crigler. "The team is hungry for success," Chiappetta said, "and willing to work as hard as need be to make that happen."
St. Viator -- Coach Mary Ruffin is excited about the Lions' prospect this winter. She's got 33 team members to work with, and there's a potential for end-of-season advancement, too. Ruffin says the top competitors are Charlie Wood, who has a chance at making the state meet in both the 100 back and diving. Sean McDermott is with reach of making it in the 100 breast. Not out of the question are state meet swims for Brennan McGuire, Nick Frank and Keegan Finn. In addition, the Lions have a freshman, Mitchell Warren, who's making an immediate impact as the team's top swimmer in a few events. "We are fortunate to have a team of hard-working, dedicated swimmers," Ruffin said.
Schaumburg -- Sprinter Andrew Swinkunas and middle distance standout James Birriel figure to be the top performers for the Saxons, along with diving standouts Dylan Rust and Adam Maslowski. L.J. Peterson, Adam Kobiela and Daniel Skiroock have also figured in Schaumburg's top relays in the early going.
Wheeling -- The Wildcats are showing major improvement. The versatile Bryce Maczko now has company at the top of the lineup with accomplished club swimmers Jake and Kyle Noel. They're just freshmen but will have a sharp impact on the team's ability to score points against MSL East foes. Others such as David Modlin, Nate Reiff, Justin Loquercio and Lukasz Szczepaniec and Noah Ihde have made gains, giving Wheeling enough depth for three quality relays and better competitiveness throughout a dual lineup. Divers Austin Lockwood and Winston Derry will also help the Wildcats in the dual meet setting. "As a team, we are improving our times and are working to improve our division and conference finished," said Wheeling coach Tod Schwager. "It does look to be an exciting year."