Summer may be over, but teams across the area are staying in the pool as the high school swim season is in its infancy.
Belton won District 8-5A last season, but the Killeen ISD schools and Copperas Cove look to unseat the Tigers this year.
Defending district title
The defending champs will have a mixed group this season.
Belton is looking to replace seven seniors who graduated on the boys side, while the girls squad not only returns every swimmer, but add five freshmen.
“I hate to use the word rebuilding, but we are refocusing our efforts and challenges,” Belton coach Michael Burt said about the boys squad. “Last year we were very successful all the way up to the regional level so I think we’re back to focusing on what we can do on the district level and take it from there.”
The Tiger boys will look toward the talented upperclassmen trio of Jacob Fitzwater, Tristan Boss and Brandon Smith to provide leadership to the team that includes seven freshmen and sophomores.
As a junior last season, Fitzwater was a part of Belton’s third place 200-medley relay team.
Senior Megan Nitcher will look to build on a strong outing at regionals last season in which she finished third in the 100-butterfly.
At last season’s regional meet, the Belton girls finished eighth, but Burt said he looks for the team to finish in the Top 5 or even Top 3 at regionals this season.
“Whatever we were last year, we’re just a whole lot stronger and better,” Burt said about the girls. “Last year they won district and sent eight or nine to regionals. I expect to win district and get 10 or 12 to regionals.”
Aquadawgs seek replacements
The Copperas Cove Aquadawgs need replacements for Nicholas Pontius and Alec Barlow, who graduated last year.
Barlow helped the girls 400-free relay make the finals at the regional meet and was also on the 200-medley and 200-free relay teams that qualified for regionals.
Pontius helped the Aquadawgs 200-medley relay team make it out of district and to regionals last year.
Burnett continues to grow Eagles
In her second season as Ellison swim coach, Ellen Burnett helped the program grow.
Last season, the Eagles had 25 swimmers. This year, Ellison has 18 boys and 21 girls for a total of 39.
Seniors Tony Nunez and Alexei Gallo return to the team after helping the Eagles 400-free relay team make it to the regional meet last season. Ellison also looks for a strong showing from senior Kevin Padilla in the freestyle events.
“I think we will definitely make it back to regionals this year,” Burnett said. “I’m pretty sure we’ll take a couple of boys to individual events.”
Armelia Anderson, Jailene Cattaneo, Kaitlyn Haney and Maryssa Bradley will lead the Lady Eagles after qualifying for regionals in the girls 200- and 400-free relays.
Haney, Anderson and Bradley swam in the 200 Cattaneo, Haney and Bradley swam in the 400.
“I think our A and our B relay teams are going to be strong this year because we have more girls and we’re able to put a lot more of them into our relay,” Burnett said.
Talented seniors lead Harker Heights
Matt Sluss and Danielle Nelson will look to build upon strong showings at last year’s regional meet for their final season with the Knights.
Sluss placed fourth in both the boys 100-butterfly and 200-free and was a part of the 200-free and 400-free relay teams that had Top 10 finishes.
Senior Morgan Bean also returns after helping the relay teams to Top 10 finishes at regionals last season.
“We had a strong finish with the boys last year so we’re really trying to have strong finishes at regionals, like first or second,” Harker Heights coach Kate Eikrem said. “We’re shooting for that with the boys.”
Nelson looks to lead the girls after finishing fifth at regionals in the 100-butterfly, seventh in the 200-IM and helping the girls 200-medley and 200-free relay teams make it past district.
Sophomore Geneva Pantoja had a Top 10 finish in the 100-backstroke and was a part of the Lady Knights relay teams.
Nelson and Pantoja were joined by Olivia Nutter and Kathleen Sauer last season, but there are no guaranteed spots this year.
“One of our really big strengths is that we have 10 girls that are really, really competitive,” Eikrem said. “Even though I would love to keep all of those girls together, it’s going to be more competitive than that this year.”
Killeen’s taking a dive
For the first time in nearly two decades, Killeen will have a chance to dive into regionals as the Kangaroos added a pair of divers to this season’s squad.
Junior Grant McClain and sophomore Kailey Milhorn will be looking to make a splash for the Kangaroos this season.
“I’m really excited to have divers,” Killeen coach Valerie Nogle said. “We’ll have to travel to get to a pool, but the kids are really excited about it and I think it will help our program, not just at Killeen High School, but as the district grows.”
The Lady Roos will have a deeper team, as the squad surpassed the 20-swimmer mark this season.
The Killeen girls will be led by junior Courtney Monahan and sophomore Cassandra Villarreal who were a part of last year’s 200-medley team that made it to the regional meet.
“We have some newer girls who are just moving here that are military and I think will make us some very strong contenders in a lot of events,” Vogle said.
McClain along with Aaron Parker and Dyllon Ramsey are the top returners for the Roos swim team this season.
Young Grey Wolves
The 2013-2014 Grey Wolves are more like pups this season with 20 freshmen on the team and only two seniors.
There is an opportunity on the boys side to fill the shoes left by Mark Curley who is now at West Point swimming for Army. Last season, Curley qualified for the Class 5A state meet in Austin in the Boys 100-meter freestyle.
“We’re kind of a young group and it’s been a lot of fun,” Shoemaker coach Monte Allwein said. “We’re definitely on the rebuild and hopefully we can keep those kids for four years.”
The Grey Wolves boys 200-free and 200-medley relay teams boast a talented trio of junior Kejuan Tate and sophomores Kelvin Pena and Michael Wesolski.
Tate and Pena were a part of the boys 200-medley relay team that swam at the regional meet last season.
On the girls side, Allwein said that Linda Medel has also shown a great deal of progress in the freestyle events.
“I know that we’re still raw, but the did things that I’ve been surprised about,” Allwein said about the girls team.