Duneland Athletic Conference
Athletes to watch: Patrick Curley, So., sprints, distance; Blake Pieroni, So., distance; Jack Wallar, So., IM, breast; Aaron Whitaker, So., fly, sprints; Ethan Whitaker, So., distance
Outlook: This is the first time in six years that the Trojans do not have a state champion in their lineup, but the team is still really strong. Last year's deep freshman class has gained a quality year of experience. Freshman Josh Van Nevel adds to an impressive group of underclassmen. Seniors Chris McGue and Colin Buckles provide leadership, while classmate and diver Austin Roach could have a breakthrough season.
Quote: "Our sophomores are making nice progressions. We've certainly got the ball rolling." — Coach Kevin Kinel
Athletes to watch: Mike Kukurugya, Jr., sprints; Johnny Lynk, Jr., free; Joel Gintzler, Jr., fly, I.M.; Dan Kvachkoff, Sr., breast, fly.
Outlook: The Bulldogs did lose some firepower from last season, but four swimmers return from having state meet experience. Kukurugya, the team captain, will be looked upon to lead the always-strong Bulldogs into the postseason.
Quote: "We have some state-level kids coming right out of P.E. class." — Coach Doug Norris
Athletes to watch: Mike Skurka, Sr., sprints; Luke Paprocki, Jr., free; Brandon Stefano, Sr., fly; Brad Egebrecht, Jr., back.
Outlook: The Indians graduated their best swimmer last season in Teryn Solan. L.C. still has a goal of sending multiple swimmers to the state meet and scoring some points while remaining competitive around the area.
Quote: "I've seen a good group of guys who have had good practices. We'll have to rely on those guys to lead the team." — Coach Todd Smolinski
Athletes to watch: Austin Butcher, Sr., IM, back; Chris Klimczak, Jr., free, fly.
Outlook: Butcher, the defending sectional champ in the 100 back, leads a growing program.
Swimmers to watch: Nick Badali, Sr., free, breast; Dane Ezernack, Sr., back, fly; Markus Kluga, Jr., free, breast; Dave Osorio, So., all-around.
Outlook: The Pirates lost a lot of seniors last year, so team captains Badali and Ezernack will need to provide leadership this season. Merrillville finished sixth in last season's LaPorte Sectional and will look to improve on that.
Quote: "I'm looking for those guys to step up. We look to break even and stay the course." — Coach Ladd Downham
Athletes to watch: Matt Quinlan, Jr., breast.
Outlook: Cameron Miller, who had two top-three state finishes last season, has graduated, so this could be a rebuilding season for the Wolves.
Athletes to watch: Mikey Janes, So., sprints; Alex Rosales, Jr., diving.
Outlook: Alex Schreier is concentrating on just club swimming this season, so Janes could be one of the leading forces on the team for first-year coach Eric Mundt. Mundt will be co-coaching both the boys and girls squads with his brother Nathan.
Quote: "Mikey is improving. We should be competitive." — Co-coach Eric Mundt
Athletes to watch: Andrew Antonelli, So., distance; Evan Curry, Fr., sprints; Ethan Joll, Sr., back, free; Dion Low, Sr., breast, IM; Conner Sunday, Sr., fly, back.
Outlook: Adam Nellessen, a 1998 Valpo graduate, takes over the program, and he believes this could be the Vikings' strongest lineup since his senior season.
Quote: "Our senior leadership will be important. Andrew has done a lot of swimming in club, but this is a different animal. Our seniors should help him adjust." — Nellessen
Great Lakes Athletic Conference
Outlook: The Pioneers finished last among the teams who recorded points at last season's Crown Point Sectional, so the emphasis will be on improving that performance.
Swimmers to watch: Van Westerhoff, Sr., 500 free, relays; Ian Dugan, Sr., 50 free, relays; Miles Howard, Jr., I.M.; Mike Walker, Jr., 50 free, relays.
Outlook: The Gladiators hope to be competitive this season through a good mix of youth and experience. Seniors Dugan and Westerhoff will likely be counted on to provide leadership to the younger up-and-coming swimmers.
Quote: "Our goal is to beat Morton and do well in the GLAC." — assistant coach Courtney Smith
Swimmers to watch: Amadeus Howard, Sr., fly, I.M., relays; Erik Neverez, Sr., distance, relays; Domingo Garcia, Sr., back, relays.
Outlook: Numbers are up for the Wildcats this season, and the team includes about 75 percent seniors. Hammond hopes to give Morton a run for its money in the Great Lakes Athletic Conference.
Quote: "I feel like they're going to give us good leadership this year." — Coach Sue Ann Mathewson
Swimmers to watch: Brock Daniels, Sr., distance free; Jonathan Sawyer, Sr., fly, back; Jose Quinones, Sr., free, I.M.; Connor Davidson, So., sprints.
Outlook: Morton hopes to improve upon last season, when the Governors finished seventh at the Crown Point Sectional with 59 points. Daniels will be counted on to help lead the team throughout the season.
Quote: "We should be able to defend our conference title and hopefully move up a bit in sectionals." — Coach Brian Rycerz
Greater South Shore Conference
Swimmers to watch: Anthony Repay, Jr., breast, sprints; Brayden Banske, Jr., I.M., fly; Robbie Lorenz, Jr., distance, I.M.; Chandler Cardenas, So., back, sprints.
Outlook: The Warriors have become the class of the Greater South Shore Conference in the past two seasons, all without having their own pool. This team is young, but should be able to defend its conference title for a third straight year.
Quote: "Every year, we lose key players, but others rise to the occasion in the end." — Coach Pam Armagast
Swimmers to watch: Jose Perez, Jr., back; Christian Arocho, Jr., breast; Sal Hernandez, Jr.
Outlook: The Warriors have eight swimmers out this season, up from just five the previous year. Last season, Calumet fielded a team of swimmers all new to the pool, so expectations are higher this season with a year of experience under their belts.
Quote: "The boys team genuinely wants it this year. They want to be the team that's recognized." — Coach AnnMarie Keene
Outlook: The Spartans finished 12th with 12 points at last season's Crown Point Sectional. Adding depth and cutting times should be a top priority.
Athletes to watch: Brandon Bolde, Fr., fly, free; Dan Gensel, Jr., back; Christian Koch, Sr., distance; Michael Morgan, Sr., sprints, free; Michael Tasicas, Jr., sprint, free.
Outlook: Bolde provides a spark to the lineup, and the Bearcats could challenge Noll for the GSSC crown.
Quote: "With our numbers (18), we have some potential. Noll pretty much stomped us last year (at the GSSC Meet). We're developing some new swimmers, and that could help our depth." — Coach Rob Gass
Northwest Crossroads Conference
Swimmers to watch: Patrick Bolda, Jr., I.M., fly; Logan Denny, So., breast, sprints; Jordan Long, Jr., back.
Outlook: Danelle Bulatovich takes the reins of the Panthers from Sam Fies, inheriting a young team with some promise for the future. Bolda, Denny and Long, while not seniors, will be expected to help lead the team this season.
Quote: "We hope to move up in the ranks team-wise in both conference and sectionals." — Bulatovich
Swimmers to watch: Steve Castillo, Jr., sprints; Adam Johnston, Sr., sprints; Matt Dyer, Sr., sprints, breast; Trevor Spiegel, Sr., I.M., back.
Outlook: The Trojans have flown under the radar for the past couple of seasons, but that may not be the case anymore. The Trojans have a goal of sending as many people as possible to state, and have the personnel to make that a reality. Castillo and Johnston are two of the fastest sprinters in the area.
Quote: "We've got a big core of seniors who are really motivated this year." — Coach Ryan Harrington
Swimmers to watch: Dan Lamphier, Jr., sprints; Gary Cauley, Sr., back, I.M.; Trey Paradise, Sr., sprints; Braden O'Kelly, So., free, breast.
Outlook: Expectations are pretty high for the Brickies this season since they have four swimmers with age group backgrounds. That's rare for a school not known for swimming. A lot of good experience returns from last season, as well.
Quote: "Hopefully, we'll be able to do a little bit better than we did last year." — Coach Cindy Carter
Swimmers to watch: Frank Lapota, Jr., breast; Zach Ratliff, Sr., fly, relays; Cody Jones, Sr., back; Trevor Overstreet, Sr., diving, sprints.
Outlook: The Kougars are coming off a strong season in which they won the Lowell Invitational, their own K.V. Invitational and finished third in the Northwest Crossroads Conference. K.V. would like to at least equal, if not surpass that performance this season.
Quote: "Right now we're doing a lot of teaching, because we have a lot of freshmen getting acclimated to high school swimming." — Coach Dan Roberts
Swimmers to watch: Connor Wood, Sr., breast; Zack Wakefield, Sr., 200 free, back.
Outlook: Wood is one of the best swimmers in the area, and a repeat trip downstate for him is a definite goal for the Red Devils. Kelly Hurst takes over coaching
Quote: "We actually have a lot of new swimmers out, which we're really excited about." — Hurst
Swimmers to watch: Wilson Beckman, Fr., back; Brandon Armagast, Jr., free, fly; Eric Dobis, Sr., fly; Kyle Ruckert, Sr., free; Joey Gardner, Fr., breast, I.M.; Cole Briggs, Sr., distance free; Max Lundin, Jr., I.M.; Seth Westin, Fr., I.M.; Sammy Odtallah, So., free.
Outlook: Munster graduated all four of its state level swimmers last season in Kevin Behrens, Dillon Thompson, Max Kilibarda and Frank Rapin. While the team doesn't have the same firepower as it did last season, the Seahorses will still be one of the region's best.
Quote: "I think these guys are up to the challenge." — Coach Matt Pavlovich
Outlook: Developing depth will be key for the Hornets this season to compete in their conference.
Outlook: The Panthers lost Micheal Scott to graduation last season and will need to find someone to replace him in the pool.
Outlook: The Cougars graduated several seniors from last season's team and will need to bring in an influx of youth to replace them.
Outlook: The Cardinals lost a lot of seniors to graduation and will need to count on younger swimmers to step up this season.
Outlook: Rensselaer lost Casey Hooker, a state-level swimmer, to graduation last season and will need to find someone to fill his huge shoes. The Bombers finished fifth at last season's Crown Point Sectional, with Hooker helping score the majority of their 89 points.
!~ By Times Sportswriter Jim Hunsley and Times Correspondent Matt Douthett