The amount of talent in Elkhart County area pools could be near its apex for the 2016-17 girls high school swimming season.
While there may not be a future Olympian like Elkhart Central graduate Lindsay Benko was in the early 1990s, the strength in the senior classes around the area makes this a must-watch year for fans of the sport.
Start with Northridge High School, where coach Joe Keller begins his 26th season with two Division I swimmers in Katie Hughes (Purdue) and Rylee Dahlman (IUPUI).
Hughes finished second in the 500-yard freestyle and fifth in the 200 free at the State Finals last season, helping the Raiders to a fifth place finish in the team standings. Dahlman came home ninth in diving, one spot behind teammate Mary Grossman.
Northridge remains the favorite in the Northern Lakes Conference and should again be a team battling for a top-five spot in the state. In addition to Hughes, Grossman and Dahlman, Keller also returns plenty of depth, including seniors August Hartzell, juniors JC Burbrink, Sydnee Emerson, Jenna Miller and Lauren Miller, and sophomore Janelle Burbrink. The veteran coach is also high on freshmen Jenna Nethercutt and Kenzie Weber.
Concord coach Tom Johnson has a young and talented team featuring just one senior.
But that senior is special, as diver Lauren Boone attempts to win her fourth straight sectional title and make her fourth trip to state. Boone, currently No. 1 in her class at Concord, signed with Rutgers last week. She finished 12th at state in February.
The Minutemen also return talented juniors Maddison Lantz and Alexandrea Beer, along with sophomores Jill Dawson, MaKayla Miller and OIivia Trout.
Penn came home eighth in the state last year at Indianapolis and coach Jess Preston has three Division I swimmers of his own in Kionna Clayton (Hawaii), Meagan Ronci (IUPUI) and Kayla Molnar (Ball State). Clayton had the best individual finish at state last year among the three, with a third in the 100 breast.
The Kingsmen also return senior Taylor Bush, juniors Ally Langfeldt and Makenna Bottorff and sophomore Maddie Ziegert, all of whom swam at state last winter.
Among other top swimmers in the area are Elkhart Central sophomores Sydney Dygert and Olivia Maack, along with senior Morgan Tepe, Elkhart Memorial seniors Ally Bailey and Kim Rezutko and NorthWood's Kate Jarvis and Betsy Nunemaker.
Among coaches, Elkhart Memorial's Nick DeJong replaces longtime Crimson Charger boss Jon Cook, while Tim Stutsman takes over at NorthWood.
Coach: Tom Johnson (8th season).
2015-16 record: 8-2 (6-1 NLC).
Returning letterwinners: Senior – Lauren Boone. Juniors – Alex Beer, Daniella Bessonov, Jana Fisher, Jaimee Hawley, Maddisen Lantz, Jenna Lechlitner, Veronica Lidy, April Ordonez, Taylor Snyder, Reegan Stauffer, Katelyn Zeser. Sophomores – Jillian Dawson, Makayla Miller, Olivia Trout.
Newcomers: Juniors – Madilynn Graber, April Overton, Yami Sammaniego. Sophomores – Allyson Cortes, Essynce Isabell, Alyssa Kelly. Freshmen – Brooke Farnham, Lilli Hale, Tess Lietzan, Paola Martinez, Brooklyn Messenger, Elexis Ott, Gabby Sponseller, Lindsey Williamson, Audrey Wurtsbaugh.
Opener: Goshen at Concord Tuesday, Nov. 29.
Coach: Michelle Guipe (2nd season).
Upperclassmen: Seniors – Amanda Allison, Stacy Dibley, Hannah Myers, Hannah Sears, Sabryna Stanley, Carmen Stouder, Morgan Tepe, Reyna Wood-McComish. Juniors – Katie Buckley, Lilly Fann, Chloe Matchette, Victoria Miller.
Underclassmen: Sophomores – Kortney Buckley, Sydney Dygert, Olivia Maack, Hadley Malloy, Jacquelyn Stout. Freshman – Mycah Callahan, Antonia Hiland, Natali Khamkheuang, Melanie Kruop, Maria LaRocca, Ellie Malloy, Maria Wood-McComish, Ashlynne Schriefer.
Next meet: Central at New Prairie Thursday, Nov. 17.
Coach: Nick DeJong (first year).
Returning letterwinners: Seniors – Ally Bailey, Samantha Brugh, Ashlyn Corpe, Kim Rezutko. Juniors – Ashley Sissom, Katle Stephan.
Newcomers: Freshman – Lily Spray, Lori Martinez, Breanna Taylor.
Opener: SB Adams at Memorial Tuesday, Nov. 15
Coach: Nate Long (2nd season)
Upperclassmen: Seniors – Jenea Born, Jasmine Davidson, Abby Hetler, Emma Russell. Juniors – Bailey Baer, Karla Hernandez-Walton, Syreeta Moore, Anna Paetkau, Monserrat Ramos, Samantha Speicher, Olivia Thomas.
Underclassmen: Sophomores – Laniya Bonds, Aurora Flores, Sonia Guillen, Eleanor Kercher, Carolina Olivo, Makala Saeger, Annika Smith, Elizabeth Zehr, Aziza Zhoraoeva. Freshman –
Opener: Goshen Relays Saturday, Nov. 19.
Coach: Tim Stutsman (first year).
Upperclassmen: Senior – Haley Grove. Juniors – Ane Azkarate, Kaitlin Eby, Carlee Hostetler, Kate Jarvis, Betsy Nunemaker, Megan Nunemaker, Megan Stakovich.
Underclassmen: Sophomores – Avery Bontrager, Sarah Eberle, Hannah Klotz, Laura Schrock. Freshman – Hannah Eberle, Brittany Hershberger, Chloe Hostetler, Elle Jansen, Megan Miller, Ariana Runge, Kylie Weaver.
Opener: NorthWood at Bremen Tuesday, Nov. 15.
Coach: Joe Keller (26th year).
2015-16 record: 10-2 (7-0 NLC).
Returning letterwinners: Seniors – Rylee Dahlman, August Hartzell, Katie Hughes, Madison Kenyon. Juniors – JC Brbrink, Sydnee Emerson, Mary Grossman, Jenna Miller, Lauren Miller, Sara Troyer. Sophomore – Janelle Burbrink.
Newcomers: Junior – Rowann Hatfield. Sophomore – Alexis Freyenberger. Freshman – Caitlin Clark, Eby Taylor, mia Figueroa, Ann Metzger, Jenna Nethercutt, Logan Pippenger, Grace Ritchie, Kenzie Weber.
Opener: Chesterton at Northridge Saturday, Nov. 26.
Coach: Jess Preston (9th year).
2015-16 record: 14-0 (10-0 NIC).
Returning letterwinners: Seniors – Taylor Bush, Kionna Clayton, Kayla Molnar, Meagan Ronci, Mimi Toroczkai. Juniors – Sydney Acito, Makenna Bottorff, Ally Langfeldt, Mackenzie Richards. Sophomores – Abby Barnes, Carolina Marks, Abby Meckstroth, Hannah Moran, Maddie Ziegert.
Opener: Penn at Mishawaka Tuesday, Nov. 15.