Optimism reigns high with the Estero High girls swimming program following a season in which the Wildcats didn’t lose a meeting until the Class 3A championships.
In fact, Estero coach Timothy Jacobson said, the Wildcats were unbeaten to any team south of I-4 for the entirety of the season. They finished fifth in the state as a team in 2015.
“We’re excited,” Jacobson said. “We have a good outlook.”
The Wildcats enter the 2016 season with three returning state qualifiers, two region qualifiers and a freshman with the potential to boost the program in as many as three events.
Jacobson enters his second year in charge of the program alongside Chelsea Franklin, a two-time state swimming champion at Cypress Lake who went on to become a two-time All-American at Arkansas and Olympic trials qualifier.
“A lot of these girls are swimmers that have come over from their youth programs,” Jacobson said. “They love getting in the water. They love being around each other. It makes the team better.”
The Wildcats named four seniors captains, including The News-Press All- Area finalist Alina “Bean” Faunce, an LSU and Alabama recruit who finished fifth in the state in the 200-meter individual medley and was fourth in the 100 fly. She owns the school record in the 100 breaststroke.
Paige Madden was a state finisher in both the 50 free and 100 backstroke, while Roe Marsala (200 free) and Bella Michalski round out the group of captains. Senior Alyson Currao was a region qualifier in the 200 free and 500 free.
“Our goal this season it to take more girls to states,” Jacobson said. “We look at our competition. And there’s good competition in our area. But we have an expectation to place high again. We want to win districts again, we want to win regions again.”
Jacobson perhaps is the envy of other programs with the help of Franklin. While he manages the day-to-day schedule, sets lineups and works with the swimmers, Franklin is tasked with personal development of the athletes.
“She gets them fast in the pool,” Jacobson said. “She’s incredibly important.”
Along with a handful of accomplished seniors, the Wildcats also feature a host of underclassmen that are expected to compete in varsity races.
Juniors Nicole Bravo (200 IM), Shelby Jacobson (100 free), Makenna Subbert (100 fly) and Jessie Walsh (100 free) will also make impacts at the varsity level.
Sophomore Makailey Hauser was a state qualifier in the 500 free and a regional qualifier in the 100 breast.
Freshman Mikayla Puckett enters the program with the kinds of marks that Jacobson believes would compete at the state level. She will swim for the Wildcats in the 500 free, 100 breast and 200 free.
The Wildcats also return three of their four swimmers in the 200 medley relay and two of four in the 400 free relay, which placed fourth at states last year.
“No one plans to go to state and lose,” Jacobson said. “We want to do our best. We want to swim hard, swim our best and as fast as we can.”
Contenders: Estero, Gulf Coast, Barron Collier
Sleepers: Fort Myers, Riverdale, Charlotte
Athletes to watch: Alina Faunce (sr.) Estero; Sydney McMurray (sr.) Fort Myers; Paige Madden (sr.) Estero; Makailey Hauser (so.) Estero; Bella Marsala (so.) Estero; Nicole Bravo (jr.) Estero; Akira Ison (sr.) Fort Myers; Madi Baron (so.) Fort Myers.
Outlook: The Wildcats are frontloaded with three returning state qualifiers, including All-Area finalist Bean Faunce, but return a handful of underclassmen, too. Gulf Coast and Barron Collier are considered strong candidates to vie for the district, while Fort Myers, with a bevy of talent, and Riverdale are expected to compete as well.
Contenders: Port Charlotte, Mariner, North Fort Myers
Sleepers: Cypress Lake, Lemon Bay, Lely, Cape Coral
Athletes to watch: Journi Northorp (sr.) Mariner; Nicole Jimenez (sr.) Cape Coral; Grace Fuhrman (sr.) Mariner; Audrey Salcedo (sr.) Cypress Lake; Stephanie Kraus (sr.) Cape Coral; Angie Baerwalde (sr.) Island Coast; Savannah Flint (sr.) Dunbar; Julia Da’Salivia (sr.) Dunbar; Anna Langford (so.) Cape Coral.
Outlook: The Pirates are potentially the cream of the crop in the district, while Mariner and North Fort Myers should compete for top honors as well. A host of talented Lee County swimmers could make their marks at the region and state meets. That starts with Northorp, a runner up in the Class 2A diving championship last season with Mariner, while Jimenez, Salcedo and Flint all should find success for their programs.
Contenders: Bishop Verot, CSN, Seacrest Country Day, SFCA
Sleepers: Canterbury, Oasis, St. John Neumann, ECS
Athletes to watch: Flo Almada (sr.) Bishop Verot; Susan Faremouth (jr.) Marco Island; Hannah VanDress (so.) Bishop Verot; Keirsten Roppelt (jr.) Oasis; Alexa Gonzalez (fr.) Bishop Verot; Lisa Cottage-Ramnick (jr.) Marco Island.
Outlook: The Sharks have begun the season with an impressive result over the Vikings and are buoyed by the performance of Roppelt, a junior swimmer who features in the 50-meter free. The Vikings, however, have the most depth and count on Almada and VanDress as their strongest swimmers. Marco Island features Cottage-Ramnick, who is talented in both the 100-meter and 200-meter free.
Contenders: Gulf Coast, Charlotte
Sleepers: Naples, Barron Collier, Fort Myers, Riverdale
Athletes to watch: Matt Lucker (sr.) Fort Myers; Alejandro Hernandez (jr.) Estero; Darrien Heil (sr.) Estero; Cameron Dolly (sr.) Fort Myers; Nolan Hensley (so.) Estero; Clay Riemenschneider (sr.) Fort Myers; Gian Reina (sr.) Riverdale.
Outlook: While the Sharks and Tarpons are the likely suitors for the district crown, don’t count out the Green Wave or Riverdale, which rely on a handful of returning talent. Fort Myers is particularly experienced with swimmers Lucker, Dolly and Riemenschneider.
Contenders: Cape Coral, North Fort Myers, Mariner, Lely
Sleepers: Cypress Lake, Dunbar, Lemon Bay
Athletes to watch: Jonah Martinez (sr.) Cape Coral; Jack Pellegrino (so.) Cape Coral; Jacob Kemp (sr.) Dunbar; Mason Osterhout (sr.) Dunbar; Andrew Domke (sr.) Mariner; Randy Brignor (sr.) Island Coast; Tristan D’Agostino (sr.) Cape Coral.
Outlook: The Seahawks are loaded with 11 seniors on their roster, including state qualifier Martinez and talented standouts like Pellegrino and D’Agostino, but Dunbar also returns all of its letter winners from last season, and Mariner should contend in a tough district.
Contenders: Oasis, Bishop Verot, SFCA, CSN
Sleepers: Oasis, ECS, Oasis, St. John Neumann
Athletes to watch: Santiago Corredor (sr.) Bishop Verot; Michael Walch (so.) Oasis; Stas Van Genderen (sr.) Bishop Verot; Andrew Mills (jr.) Bishop Verot; Matt Strickland (jr.) Bishop Verot; Nicolas Quintana (jr) Oasis.
Outlook: Oasis is strengthened by a class of extremely strong swimmers, highlighted specifically by Walch, who was a All-Area first team a season ago. The Vikings, however, return a handful of state qualifiers, including three-time state champion Corredor, a Colombian international swimmer who stands out in the 200-meter and 500-meter free. Other teams will likely compete in the district for secondary finishes, including SFCA and CSN.