The defending champions boast not only a talented group of swimmers and divers, but at 100 strong, the deepest squad in the league. Heritage head coach Craig Carson is excited to see if his team is up to the challenge of repeating as league champion.
“This season is shaping up to be a promising one,” Carson said. “We begin the season with 110 swimmers and divers, our largest group ever. Our boys and girls teams are both defending BVAL champions, and with our strong group of incoming freshmen, we hope to contend again in 2011.”
The varsity girls are led by Madison Applegate, an All-American in the 100-meter butterfly, and Haley Rose Love, a two-event finalist at last year’s North Coast Section championships. For the boys, Carson expects returning NCS qualifiers Kurt Holzmuller (backstroke and 500-meter freestyle), Ryan Barsanti (freestyle) and Carter Haines (freestyle and butterfly) to make big contributions.
The Wolverines appear to be in prime shape to make a serious run at the league title. Their boys and girls squads return most of their swimmers from last year. Head coach Kiel Olff is confident that the team will show a marked improvement from last year.
“Our boys team is much improved and stronger, as we only lost one swimmer from the year before,” Olff said. “Andrew Wayne will be looking to improve on his third-place (individual medley) finish last year. Alex Bilderback and Anthony Coppo are strong breaststrokers and senior captain TJ Martell is a strong butterflyer.”
For the girls, senior captain Krystle Talens hopes to return to NCS in the 100 fly, and Laura Christensen is a strong 500 swimmer.
“We are really excited about our divers,” Olff said. “Senior captain Rachel Cadwallader’s goal is to win a BVAL title and improve on her 17th-place finish at NCS last year. And Isabella Navarro is working on a 2½ summersault this year.”
Three years ago, the Antioch swimming program was in shambles and in danger of being scrapped altogether. Although it has taken time to put the pieces back together, and there’s still a way to go, the Panthers promise to provide stiff competition for the rest of the league.
“Our team is coming back stronger than we have the past three years,” head coach Keri Miles said. “We have double the kids of last year, but we’re still small, with only 23 swimmers. … We’re not quite there, but I’m looking forward to being together. We have a very strong foundation.”
Despite the limited number of swimmers, Miles expects some them to make an impact this season. She pointed to Tanner Fuhrman, one of the team’s better all-around swimmers.
“He has hidden potential, but he doesn’t like to show it,” Miles said. “If he pushes himself, he’s an incredible swimmer. I think he’s going to do really well this year.”
For the first time in 13 years, the Lions will be coached by somebody other than Erica Pantle, who stepped down from the program after last season. In comes Cindi Coats, who has put a renewed focus on sticking together as a team.
“Team unity is the biggest difference. Last year we had some kids who had individual goals, which is fine, but they weren’t focused on the team. We’re working a lot more on that this year,” Coats said.
Coats coaches a largely inexperienced girls squad, but is confident the boys team will be able to make its presence felt in the BVAL this season.
“We graduated 10 swimmers from the girls team last year, so we’re very young on varsity,” Coats said. “For the boys, it’ll be interested to see how it plays out. It really comes down to the dual meets. It should be a fun year.”
Coats expects a strong season from senior Joey Cecchini, whom she described as a technically sound and strong swimmer in all strokes.
The Falcons appear on the right track early on, as the girls Medley Relay team has already posted an NCS Consideration time. The Falcons are one of the most consistent programs in the league and are usually in the running for the league title.
The diving team will be led by first-year head coach Krista Plumlee, and she’s excited to see what her squad is capable of.
“Be on the lookout for Kate Clark, Taylor Morrow, Kirsten Hulsey and Patrina Smart,” Plumlee said. “They are returning divers from last year and know what it takes to be successful. They are also constantly striving for improvement.”
The Pirates might lack the recognition accorded other BVAL swimmers – what they don’t lack is talent and passion. Athletic director Al Hurtado expressed his admiration for head coach Nicole Dennis and assistant coach Susie Farmer, both in their fourth year at Pittsburg.
“Both are very fine coaches. This is their fourth year with us, and they’ve really built the program up,” said Hurtado. “The year before they got here, we only had 10 swimmers.”
Despite the lack of recent success, the Pirates are hoping that continuity will breed success. “Our hope is that after four years of having them here,” Hurtado added, “we’re going to be more competitive this season.”