Coach: Bill Schalz
Losses to graduation: Shane Cano, Dan Duhig
Key returning swimmers: John Thielen, Sr., Josh Kanute, Sr., Jack Fergus, Jr., Mike Burke, Jr., John Duhig, Sr., Nick Kanute, So., Dan Creighton, Jr., Luke Bajda, Jr.
Top newcomers: Anthony Bliss, Fr., Joel Bottarini, Fr., Jonathan Ramoska, So., Christian Harris, So.
Outlook: It's always one mark of any athletic team to see how it fares against its top competition. So when Marmion rallied from losing in the 200-yard medley relay and defeated Fenwick by 6 points earlier this season, that was a very good sign for Cadets coach Bill Schalz and his boys swimming team. Then Marmion won its own invitational, holding off a challenge from Lyons Township. "Our relays are always a fun meet," Schalz said. "The guys show up and bring it to that meet, they want to swim well at it every year. The Fenwick meet was important too. We were not that sharp against Oswego, in our first meet. We had a few decent swims, but we had guys going against Fenwick who were 5-6 seconds faster in their 100s." Close meets against top opponents -- these are good signs as the Cadets prepare for their Christmas training period. "It's important to win close meets," Schalz said. "I don't think you can blow off meets all year long and then throw a switch at the end of the season and then become a racer. You have to step up and race all season in order to be a racer at the end of the season. You can be tired and not swim a great time, but you can still race hard. Plus, if you go to a meet and don't swim hard, it's just a day off." Marmion has a core of varsity swimmers who have been to the state meet, and that could be the driving force behind the team's success this year. "A lot of our guys have done a lot of hard work in the off-season and stepped up their game," Schalz said. "Hopefully that will turn into some fast swimming at the end of the season. We have guys who have come into the season in better shape than in the past." As with all top boys swim teams, the two-week Christmas training period is a boost to the season. Coming out of that heavy training period, Marmion heads to the Evanston Invitational, and that is always a bell weather as the New Year begins. "At Evanston, you get to enter two kids per event," Schalz said. "If you don't travel to that meet, it can be an eye-opener for some guys. When we start with our January meets, we really start focusing on the lineup." Importantly, Schalz said there is plenty of talent on this year's team, whether with the returning athletes or in the newcomers. "I see this as a Top 10 team," Schalz said. "Could we go all the way up the ladder and get a trophy? We'd have to have a lot of things happen and we'd have to catch a couple of breaks. But I certainly think we're a Top 10 team."
St. Charles East
Coach: Joe Cabel
Losses to graduation: Shaun Seuschek
Key returning swimmers and divers: Max Schmitt, Sr., Alec Carnell, Sr., Will Shanel, Jr., TJ Bindseil, Sr., Taylor Nunnery, Sr.
Top newcomers: John Tarpey, Fr.
Outlook: Looking at the St. Charles East's swimming roster, it's easy to notice how many new names there are -- but more importantly, it's the number of new names that stands out. The Saints have 50 swimmers in their program this year, the largest number in years and a good thing for 2012-13 and beyond. "It's the biggest team we've had since the 90s," St. Charles East coach Joe Cabel said. "It's great having all the new blood on the team. They're working really hard." But saying the Saints are in some sort of "building mode" is inaccurate because there is also a core of athletes on the squad who swam at last year's state meet and return as juniors or seniors. The volume of newcomers means there is plenty of competition, regardless of what a swimmer achieved in the past. "When you have that number of kids, the lineup's always changing," Cabel said. "We're seeing a lot of best times so we're changing lineups from week to week. We're seeing a lot of growth right now." That large-size Saints team churns into its two-week Christmas training this weekend and the way the team performs should improve over those grueling practices. "It's like a summer in two weeks," Cabel said. "It's a tough time. It's a big mental effort, but the rewards are there at the end." Swimmers such as Taylor Nunnery, Will Shanel, Alec Carnell and TJ Bindseil provide swimming leadership and Max Schmitt is the team's strongest diver in years. "We have a core of guys who have been there before and they're having to stretch themselves with 50 guys," Cabel said. "They're getting around to everybody and making sure everybody's on the same page." While the focus for the varsity is on producing results this season, there is also the fact that the impact from this year's turnout could be felt through the next three years -- and possibly beyond. "Whenever you get big numbers, it's more work for the coaching staff, but we all like it," Cabel said. "I remember when we used to have 14 or 15 guys. The coaching staff likes it because it creates so much competition inside the team. It makes it sharper. You're not talking about seconds between guys, it's tenths between guys. There's a lot of energy, no question."
St. Charles North
Coach: Rob Rooney
Losses to graduation: Chris Dieter, Joey Chokran
Key returning swimmers and divers: Kyle Gannon, Sr., Spencer Gray, Sr., Nick Kowaleski, Sr., David Chokran, Sr., Austin Stapella, Sr., Joey Quan, Jr.
Top newcomers: Josh Clay, Sr., Stephan Hutchinson, Fr.
Outlook: There was never much of a downturn, but it's very easy to say that St. Charles North is getting itself back to the stage where it is one of the perennial premier teams in Illinois. The North Stars showed that at the recent Neuqua Valley Invitational. They won the meet in 2011 and finished second in 2012. What this means as Rob Rooney's team tries to improve on last year's 13th-place finish in the state meet is anyone's guess, but one thing is already certain -- the North Stars are ready to put in the effort to achieve results. "We've got a good group of guys with a great work ethic, so that's really positive right now," Rooney said. "We kind of rewound and went a little old school with the training, so that's been positive. They're adjusting well to it." The North Stars are like most teams and are using modern technology in training or in meets. A video recording on a tablet gives a swimmer instant on-deck feedback on his swim in the middle of a meet. But all the gadgets in the world won't help if the swimmer's not prepared for his race. "We've been using the iPad now, sending them pictures in their email, for awhile now, helping them adjust to how they're doing," Rooney said. "Now we can give them visual feedback in a meet instead of just verbal. That's pretty cool." But the number of yards the North Stars swim in training is still at a very high level, and that's not likely to ever change. "If you don't have heart, you can't win," Rooney said. "No matter what else you've got, you've got to have heart to swim well." The North Stars are also getting a little "old school" help from 2007 graduate Chris Peterson, who swam at Minnesota after finishing his high school career -- which included three individual-event state titles. "He relates to the guys really, really well, so that's good," Rooney said. "It's positive with that. He's helping out in the mornings, and it's good to have an old face like that for the boys. They identify with him pretty well. And for (Peterson) to give back to the program is the most important thing."
Coach: Joe Neukirch
Losses to graduation: Christian Cruz
Key returning swimmers and divers: Kyle Reimers, Sr., James Hennessy, So., Milomir Suvira, Sr., Tamas Reiser, Sr.
Top newcomers: Dave Guillen, Fr., Martin Amdre, Fr.
Outlook: A year ago, West Aurora's boys swim team got an infusion of some talented swimmers -- and that trend has continued this year, with some talented freshmen joining the Blackhawks' ranks. The team is still struggling as far as roster size is considered, but the talent level on the squad continues to get better. "We're small but we have a lot of returners from last year," West Aurora coach Joe Neukirch said. "And we have some freshmen who have come up who have swum for club teams, which is nice. The last two or three seasons, we haven't had those year-round swimmers come up. This year, we've got two guys who need to be developed but are right there where we want to see guys come in as a freshman." Those freshmen are David Guillen and Martin Amdre. Given the domination of athletes in the upper classes in boys swimming, neither may have a massive impact this year, but they are names to remember for the future. "We struggle with building," Neukirch said. "We fluctuate. We've got a good set of guys." Neukirch said senior Tamas Reiser is another who helps lead the team, in and out of the water. "He has a sense of leadership, more in terms of outside swimming -- how to act, how to behave," Neukirch said. "He's a real leader in his actions and also in the classroom. These guys are taking care of business in the classroom so that we can just concentrate on the pool when we're ready to swim."