SPRINGFIELD TWP. – Winning in the water has always been the norm for St. Xavier. The Bombers have won 35 state team titles and this season they’ll be looking for their seventh Division I state title in a row.
St. X returns nine state-qualifying swimmers and one diver from last year’s championship team. The returning state qualifiers are seniors Joe Berno, Grant Carr, Mitchell Frey, Graham Lindquist, Liam Moran, James Wray; juniors Matt Slabe and Nathan Jonas, and sophomore Grant House, as well as junior diver Drew Fitzgerald.
“We’re optimistic that through the course of the season we can get better,” said St. Xavier coach Jim Brower. “You always like to have a good, strong senior class with some great leadership. We have those two things going for us.”
House is the defending state champion in the 100 and 200-meter freestyle. Slabe, House and Frey were three of the four legs in St. X’s 400-meter free relay team that took the title last season.
The Bombers don’t shy away from competition, they realize how important that is in order to get better.
“It’s fun to know that you’ve got some good competition to help motivate the day-to-day,” Brower said. “This is always a really strong district for swimming. We’ve had a nice little rivalry with Moeller, who again, has a very good team.”
Brower said that the Bombers have 94 swimmers in the program this year. St. X started its trek for another title on Dec. 4 at home against Elder.
Coming off a 44th place finish at the Division I state meet last year, McAuley wants to build on that success.
“I’ve never had a team with this much depth,” said fifth-year coach Eric Stock. “Our numbers aren’t as high as we’d like. Anyone can step up at any time.”
The Mohawks will follow senior Amanda Deller, who qualified for state last year in the 100 and 200 freestyle. Senior Morgan Hennard and junior Erika Lucas are both back; both were instrumental in qualifying for the district relays. Sophomore Emma Barbee is going to be important this year for McAuley, said Stone.
Overall, McAuley’s young and focused on its potential. Depth has been absent in recent years, so the Mohawks have embraced competition that they hope translates to faster times.
“There’s never been this many girls competing for spots on relays,” Stone said.
Roger Bacon will have to grow up through its underclassmen this season with one senior on the girls’ team and just two on the boys.
Even though they’re young, the Spartans are aiming high this season with their sights set on the GCL Coed championship meet at the end of the regular season. Coach Ben Stone is also hoping for some repeat success at the district meet. Roger Bacon lost last season’s district qualifiers to graduation.
On the boys’ team, look for senior Tony DiMario and junior Drew Suffoletta to provide some experience and leadership.
The girls’ team will be led by the lone senior Kelsey Heaton who’s looking for her first trip to districts this season. Stone has also been impressed with sophomore Renee Finan, who should do well in the sprint events, and freshman Sophie Hunter. Hunter’s talented, especially in the breaststroke, and Stone thinks she could have a shot at state.
“We have some young talent that should do really well,” Stone said.
Bill Profitt has taken on double duty this season. The sixth-year Finneytown coach, who’s also a YMCA coach, decided to coach at Winton Woods and Finneytown this season when the Warriors were left without a coach and the program in question.
So, Profitt has the Wildcats and the Warriors under his wing. The teams practice together, which has created a nice competition that they hope will serve them well.
Finneytown’s boys’ team has a “fair chance” of getting to districts in a relay, Profitt said. Seniors Matt Oakman and William Hunason both return after nearly qualifying for districts last year, which was their first year ever swimming.
Profitt believes the Finneytown girls’ team has a very good chance of making it to districts this year. Junior Julia Germann qualified individually for districts last season in the 500 freestyle. Juniors Katherine Germann and Elizabeth Snyder provide some speed and experience in the water.
Without nearly as much time, Profitt said the outlook for Winton Woods’ boys’ team is to do well at sectionals. The Warriors will be led by juniors Te’van West and Nick Behrendt, a La Salle transfer.
The girls’ team for Winton Woods is headlined by sophomore Madeline Kelly and junior Grace Kent. Profitt said Kent and Kelly are talented and should be shooting to swim at districts.
A positive work ethic, a businesslike approach and experience should make La Salle a tough team in the water this season. As usual, the Lancers will have first-class conference competition alongside St. X and Moeller.
La Salle has 30 swimmers on the roster, the most in a season in at least the last 25 years, per 24-year coach Mike Lienhart. Of the 30, 21 swam last year and five of those are returning district qualifiers. They are seniors Drew Meister, Sam Redd, Stephen Cosco and Dan Richter, as well as sophomore Anthony Hale.
You can also count on seniors Justin Mays, Logan Brauning and Sam Minges to play supreme parts along with juniors Ethan Stock, Cameron Nichols and sophomore David Orth.
Lienhart pointed out that La Salle has two strong incoming freshmen in Daniel Nader and Cole Trotta.