Oak Hills has a reliable blend of youth and experience, which already proved it can compete at the conference and postseason level.
The boys will be led junior Jared Cox, a two-time district qualifier, who helps score in a multitude of races. Ninth-year coach Katie Hunter said Cox can swim all the strokes. Cox earned third-team in the Greater Miami Conference last season on a relay team.
Senior Andrew Freeman will help out in the distance freestyle races, in addition to the breaststroke. Senior Tommy Gerde is experienced and specializes in the breaststroke. Sophomore Nikola Misic is a burner who shines in the sprint races. Sophomores Neil Robertson and Jack Bryan are young and fast, both should help provide stability in a number of races.
Hunter said her team has a nice blend of experienced leaders and fast newcomers who will be asked to help replace some of the talent seniors lost to graduation after last season.
“Boys are always able to fill in those shoes; we have kids that will make a difference filling in some of those spots (vacated by graduation),” Hunter said. “They always work hard, push each other and give each other some good competition in practice.”
The Highlanders open the season Dec. 2 at home against Colerain.
For the first time in roughly three decades, Elder has a new swim coach in Brad Ohmer.
Ohmer, a first-year high school head coach, actually swam at Elder for his predecessor, John Book, who remains on the Panthers’ staff as an assistant coach.
Ohmer said the Panthers should have “kind of a solid team this year.” Last season Elder qualified the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relays to the district meet as well as one individual in junior Paxton Kelley, who’s a two-time district qualifier.
Ohmer said Paxton specializes in the 50 and 100 freestyle races, but he’s an all-around swimmer, who’s able to help in a variety of strokes.
“As needed, he’ll fill in on the relays in events where we need him; I see him swimming in different events to have him sort of round out his (potential) in other events,” said Ohmer.
Paxton’s older brother, Duncan, is a senior co-captain who was a member of last season’s district relay teams. Brian Huhn is another senior co-captain, and Ohmer said he was not surprised Huhn received as many captain votes as he did. “Brian’s not the fastest swimmer, but he’s a great leader.”
Expectations are high for sophomore Eric Bley after a solid freshman season.
“Coach Book told me (Eric) really came on at the end of last year,” Ohmer said, adding they hope he continues to get better.
“We’ve got 25 swimmers this year, which is probably one of the bigger teams we’ve had in the last decade,” said Ohmer. “We have five swimmers who have never competed before. I even get in the water and practice with the newer swimmers.”
Ohmer said the older guys have really helped the youth come along, especially in the weight room.
Elder has two divers in junior Jake Wells, who was the team’s only diver last season, and Christian Distasi. Wells, who dives year round on a club team, was a district qualifier last season.
Elder starts its season on Dec. 8 at Princeton. The Best of the West meet is Dec. 15 at the Gamble Nippert YMCA.
With only four boys on the team, Taylor coach Steve Meyer said he hopes they can get “one or two” of his swimmers through to the district meet. Last season, the Yellow Jackets failed to qualify any boys to the district meet.
Three of Taylor’s four swimmers are seniors, and two of those have been four-year swimmers for the Yellow Jackets.
Brett Berra and Cameron Hall are both entering their fourth year swimming. Both compete in the sprint events, and Berra also swims butterfly.
Senior Brett Hume swam his freshman year, but this is his first year back in the water since his freshman season. Junior Michael Pangallo adds an edge in breaststroke and the freestyle events.
“They’re a year older and with boys they should be bigger and stronger,” Meyer said. “That’s what happens with the boys, so they should be stronger, they have the one year of experience under them … they’re practicing well, they’re definitely ahead of last year.”
St. Xavier High School’s swim team has, for a long time, held the state podium in a stranglehold. The Bombers have cultivated and sustained one of the most impressive programs the area has ever seen.
Last season, St. Xavier won its seventh consecutive Division I state championship (36th all-time) and the Bombers return buses full of top-tier talent in the water.
The Bombers also rotated the coaching carousel this year. Longtime head coach Jim Brower moved from the head position to an assistant, to make way for former assistant Tim Beerman to take over as head coach. Beerman was previously a head coach at Ursuline Academy.
“It’s worth mentioning that this team is 100 members strong and while we certainly can point to some of our tops swimmers at the state level,” Beerman said, “the focus of the team is really about helping everyone discover and reach the potential they have.”
Junior Grant House is without question the fastest swimmer in state. House has already won four individual state championships (two as a freshman, two as a sophomore), and he’s helped on a number of state championship relay teams. Last year, he won the 100 and 200 freestyle races at state.
Senior Matt Slabe, also an individual state qualifier, swam on the 400 freestyle relay team that won a state title last year. Junior Luke Sobolewski’s another experienced swimmer who won a state title on the 200 medley relay last year. Junior Charles Leibson was an individual state qualifier in two races last year, and just finished helping the Bombers win a water polo state championship. Sophomore Justin Grender was another difference maker at state last year, as was sophomore Nicholas Perera.
Beerman has also been very impressed by freshman Jake Foster.
“They’re just now learning how good they can really be,” said Beerman. “Their effort level is off the charts in terms of what we’re asking of them. It is a talented team, but we’re excited to see how far that talent can take us as a team. We certainly hope with good health and good training that we can return to state and do well. There are any number of individuals (outside of the swimmers mentioned above) on this team who can contribute to our success.”
For the last quarter century, La Salle swim coach Mike Lienhart has been the swim coach for the Lancers. In his 25th season, Lienhart has another experienced and talented lineup that could cut through the water for the podium this season.
But, to do that, La Salle will have to replace some key swimmers.
“We graduated seven seniors who had major impacts on varsity,” said Lienhart, who added there are only 21 boys on the roster this year and seven of those are again seniors.
The Lancers return four districts qualifiers from last season in senior Ethan Stock, junior Anthony Hale, junior David Orth and sophomore Cole Trotta, who trains year round in the sport.
“The largest class on the team is seniors (seven), whom have all had varsity swimming experience,” said Lienhart.
La Salle also has experienced contributors returning in sophomore Daniel Nader, senior Cameron Nichols, senior Randall Ellis, senior Alex Houser, senior Aaron Keller, senior Daniel Lepsky and senior Sam Moore.
Lienhart said his team has already exhibited a “very positive work ethic and determination.” For the Lancers to have a strong season, “many untested underclassmen are going to have to fill varsity roles,” said Lienhart.
The Lancers have big meets on Dec. 2 against Oak Hills, Dec. 15 at the Best of the West meet, and the Greater Catholic League meet Feb. 3.