For as long as Canton varsity girls swimming and diving coach Ed Weber can remember, the battle for supremacy in the KLAA South Division has been fought between his Chiefs and Plymouth.
Last fall, Canton prevailed with an undefeated record in the division.
This time around, despite the graduation of some strong athletes, the Chiefs are expected to still be at or near the top of the division charts when all is said and done.
“We graduated some very respectable swimmers last year and the last couple years, so it’s always hard to replace those types of individuals,” Weber said. “But we’re going to do our part and our best, … we’ll take what we have and develop a good year out of that.
“We’re looking forward to another strong year. We’re part of the South Division and typically it’s Plymouth and us fighting our way through that.
“We have been at least co-champs with that every year it’s been around, since 2008. We would like to keep that in check.”
As always with the Chiefs, there will be a large group of girls who bring versatility and a strong work ethic to the pool.
Senior co-captains Claire Green, Emily Hugan, Courtney Smith and Jane Bensen will set the tone — although they are augmented by senior Jocelyn Moraw, junior Emily Osika and junior Sydney Darnall among many others.
Green was a top finalist in the 500 freestyle and “she’ll be returning and looking for another great season,” Weber said. “She also swam the 200 IM, she was a state qualifier in the 200 freestyle and she is probably pretty capable of being a state qualifier in the 100 breaststroke, also.”
Also versatile is Hugan, who will compete primarily in the 100 breaststroke and IM.
“Definitely, breaststroke is her best and she’ll be going after a state cut and try to swim at that level,” the coach noted.
Canton also features Smith (200 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 500 freestyle), who is looking to have a strong senior season after injuries slowed her a bit last year.
“Last year we were fighting a little bit of injuries with Courtney so this year we’re coming on strong and ready for a good, healthy year,” Weber said. “Her shoulder’s strong, and looking to qualify for some MISCA cuts.”
Another sprinter is Bensen, who Weber said is “a strong leader” who will be called upon in all the sprint events (individual and relays).
Moraw is “a fabulous athlete” slated to take part in the sprint relay, 50 free, 100 free and relays.
The emergence of Darnall could be another plus.
“Sydney Darnall started swimming year-round and she is coming on strong,” Weber noted. “She can swim multiple events.”
The team could garner plenty of points from the talents of junior Emily Osika, who Weber said is looking to qualify in state events this season.
“Last year, she was very close,” Weber said. “She can swim the 200 free, 100 butterfly, 500 freestyle and 100 backstroke. Those are definitely her top events.”
The 2014 Chiefs already have had some success, finishing second on Aug. 23 at the annual Kenzie Klassic Invitational in Howell.
Other teams on hand included Howell, Jackson, Notre Dame Prep and Pinckney.
And this Saturday, the Chiefs will participate a the “Best in Class” invitational at Novi.
“That’s a nice meet,” Weber said. “You have four different heats of each event, it’s freshmen vs. freshmen, a heat of sophomores, a heat of juniors and a heat of seniors.
“And you actually score the meet individually, by grade, so you have four different winners. We were part of winning group last year with the seniors. We’ll just have to see what comes of it this year.”
Weber emphasized that the main thing will be for the girls to gain momentum as the regular schedule morphs into the postseason.
“We focus our season towards the end of the year, trying to get some of the best times together,” he said. “… You can have highs and lows throughout the season, but it really comes down to the last times you swim. You judge your success off of that.”