The Trojans, who had finishes of fourth, second and third the previous three seasons, lost their top two swimmers.
Jimmy Yoder is at Stanford after winning state titles in the 200-yard freestyle, 100 butterfly and the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. Zach Bunner is at Virginia after clinching the 200 individual medley, 100 backstroke and the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
Daniel Bridgers, who was also on the winning freestyle relays and finished sixth in the 50 freestyle, also graduated.
With Lassiter no longer with its key components, this may be the year that a deep Walton team can outperform the Trojans. Lassiter’s chances of staying on top this season will be based on who steps up.
“I definitely think we’re a very young team with a lot of freshmen coming in,” Lassiter coach Brittany Hughes said. “But we have good freshmen, sophomores and juniors coming up. It will be tough with our losses, but they have potential. The depth is still there.”
Senior sprint freestylist Zach Marshall is the lone returning swimmer from last season’s winning freestyle teams, but he isn’t the only swimmer back with experience.
Bunner’s younger brother, Brogan, a junior, is returning to swim the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke. Junior David Yap and sophomore Nick Loprinzo will help in the distance freestyle events and the 200 IM. Junior Jack Waldner is also returning to help with the 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke, and freshman Colin Reilly (50 freestyle, 100 butterfly) is showing promise in the early going.
While Lassiter is still searching for replacements, Walton appears to be loaded with returning talent after it won the county championship and finished eighth in state last year.
Although the Raiders lost three key seniors in Nathan Hufnagel, Mark Walleshauser and Campbell James, they’re expected to take a big step forward with the swimmers they have coming back.
Seniors Jack Gunning (distance freestyle, 100 butterfly) and Thomas Kelly (100 breaststroke) are expecting to lead the way and have a strong junior class led by sprinters Jake Williams and David Dingess. Juniors Stephen Lane (distance freestyle) and Austin George (200 IM, 100 breaststroke) also return.
For Walton, it will come down to depth and relays.
“I think one of the places we can step up this year is in our relays,” coach Mary Howell Hafner said. “Each of our swimmers have trained and improved, and if we can put together a stronger relay, it could improve our place at state. If our swimmers can improve one place individually, that will add up.”
Harrison is coming off a strong season where it finished 11th in the state with six state-qualifiers. The Hoyas also broke seven school records.
Unfortunately, they graduated the majority of their team, including Connor Oslin, who’s now at Alabama. But Harrison does still return senior Chris Contreras (200 IM), Connor Maggio (freestyle) and Alex Mau (100 breaststroke).
Kennesaw Mountain has depth this season, and if it can replace graduating breaststrokers Nat Siwabut and Jack Van Nuis, the Mustangs could have a shot of cracking the top 10.