The local swim season is under way, and teams across the county are already hard at work to improve upon last year's outing.
Colonel Crawford is in good shape to repeat its success at the state level on the boys side. The Eagles return all five members of last season's state relays in senior Trey Crase, Clay Fogle, Ian Kochheiser, Logan Pfeifer and Nic Roe. The only loss to graduation was Tyler Orewiler.
Pfeifer, Crase, Kochheiser and Fogle finished seventh in the 200 freestyle relay at last year's state meet with a time of 1:29.66. Roe, Kochheiser, Pfeifer and Fogle just missed out on advancing to the finals, finishing 17th in the medley relay.
On the girls side, four district qualifiers return in Nicole Jones, Taylor Kelso, Alex Roberts and Megan Lyons. The Eagles lost Jordan Crase, Casey Hershey, Richelle Jones and Tori Schimpf to graduation.
"The teams are returning a good number of letterwinners as well as some strong veterans," Colonel Crawford coach Mike Holtzapfel said. "A small number of the new swimmers are coming to the varsity program with experience and will make an impact. The remaining new swimmers are just starting competitive swimming and we're looking forward to their growth."
Both teams are defending North Central Conference champions, with sights set on a repeat performance this winter.
"Success this year will depend on the skill and speed improvement of the entire team," Holtzapfel said. "We need to create a balanced team, with several swimmers capable of swimming all four strokes competitively. I can't predict a win/loss record, but as defending NCC champions, I know we have to improve as all the teams in the league have very competitive swimmers."
Numbers are up for both the boys and girls swim teams at Bucyrus this season. Last year the girls team had nine members and the boys team only two. This year the girls boast 15 swimmers while the boys team has five.
"I've got a lot more potential as far as the boys go," Redmen coach Taylor Bahm said. "I've got a relay team coming together so it's nice to see the jump in numbers this year. This is a jump as well for the girls team. We only had nine by the end of the season, so it's a pleasant surprise and nice to have such a young team."
Bucyrus returns four letterwinners and three district qualifiers on the girls team. Juniors Tayrn Gathright, Courtney Severns and Roni Agler all return with district experience. One letterwinner returns for the boys in sophomore Austin Stevens.
"I have high expectations for all of the kids," Bahm said. "I foresee a few girls going to district this year in relays and individuals and I also think we'll be able to compete a little bit more as a team and have some higher scoring meets than we did last year."
Two meets into the season and a pair of fresh faces are already busy breaking school records for the Royals. Freshmen Kaylee Lohr and Callie Ruffener have become welcome additions to the girls program with their early season efforts.
Ruffener, the younger sister of recent Wynford graduate and swim team member Corri Ruffener, broke the 200 freestyle, 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle records while Kaylee, younger sister of swim senior Jake Lohr, broke the 100 breaststroke, 100 butterfly, 200 IM and 500 freestyle events.
With the talent the Royals girls team already had coming back, coach Sarah Bruner is expecting big things out of her swimmers this season.
Two district qualifiers return in Sara Hoffman and Madison Graham. Hoffman advanced in both the 100 back and 100 breast last year, in addition to joining Graham on the 400 free relay, which lost Corri and Lindsey Pfeifer to graduation
"We've never had more than one relay make districts. I'd like to get all of the relays there and finish in the top three or four at NCC. We've never had a first-team NCC finisher for boys or girls and one of my personal goals this season is to hopefully have at least one."
Two seniors return in Jake Lohr and Zach Stuckey, both district qualifiers. Lohr advanced in the 200 free and 500 free, medley relay and 400 free relay and Stuckey qualified in the 500 free, 100 butterfly, medley relay and 400 free relay.
State qualifier Connor Kempf returns for his senior season to lead the Tigers. Kempf advanced in the 100 back last year and was part of a Galion team just missing out on a trip to state in the relays last season.
This year Tigers coach Ted Temple expects big things out of his returning core of lettermen, with a season ending up at Canton. Galion's other top returners include junior Zane Ekin, sophomore Chad Karnes and sophomore Sam DeNero.
"The top four boys almost made state relays last season," Temple said. "Kempf made it in the 100 back, qualifying second in the district. Kempf, Ekin, Karnes and DeNero are all very versatlie. They should make state in two relays."
On the girls side, five swimmers return with district experience in senior Becca Rigdon, senior Kristen Benedict, junior Caroline Shifley, junior Samantha Alstadt.
The Tigers lost Caden Lutz, Cara Rigdon and Lindsey Gribble to graduation.
"Losing Caden Lutz to graduation was a big blow, but she is now our assistant coach after losing long time assistant Neil Jarvis to retirement," Temple said.
Crestline's swim team numbers are on the rise. For the first time in her 13 year career as the Bulldogs swim coach, Denise Jeffrey has enough boys for a relay team.
Senior letterwinners Kaleb Johnson and Michael Spade return, along with newcomer seniors Robby Green and Drew Matthews. Johnson qualified for the districts in both the 100 breast and the 200 IM. Crestline lost Marc Sleeckx to graduation.
Seven girls came out for swimming this winter, including two newcomers in sophomore Claudia Koan and freshman Samantha Palm. Senior Amber Schreck is back after dropping 10 seconds off of her 100 fly time, along with junior Brea Quail, dropping 30 seconds off of her 200 free performance. Other returners include senior Macy Gibbons, senior Larissa Coleman and sophomore Hope Martin.
"We really have to look at individual growth and progress because with a small team, it's hard to win a meet," Jeffrey said. "We just try our best and do well in each event, gain as many points as we can and drop time."