SMAC BOYS

McDonough, the 2001-02 SMAC champions, lost many seniors to graduation and this season fields a young team. Coach Chris Hammond said matching last year's success will come "completely on hard work." Senior captain John Michela will swim freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly at times this season, and will be complemented by year-round club swimmers Nick Pride, a sophomore, and Camden Fuller, a freshman whose strength is breaststroke.

Northern finished second at last year's Maryland Invitational and will be led by senior freestyle sprinter Matt Cribbs. Senior John Peil is an accomplished racer in the 200 freestyle, and Coach Kandy Spain said she is impressed with the improvement of junior David Bishop and sophomore Cale Jurin.

Sophomore Sam Fleming (freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly) and junior Eric Wiegand (breaststroke) will pace the La Plata squad. Coach Christine Wiegand called the Warriors a stronger team, and it will be helped out by the freestyle speed of junior Ryan Wood.

Patuxent Coach Graham Coombs said he is impressed with the Panthers' depth. Leading the charge will be junior freestyle sprinter Mark Logan, senior backstroke and individual medley racer Stephen Crane and junior Nate Haigler, who swims butterfly and is among the league's best in the 200 freestyle. Mike Ursic and Alex Smith are two talented freshmen, both of whom have great technique, according to Coombs.

Junior Chris Bourassa, a 50 and 100 freestyle and butterfly swimmer who transferred to Thomas Stone from Westlake, will help the Cougars' effort, as will the Chichester brothers: Billy, a senior, and Steven, a sophomore. They swim butterfly and 200 and 500 freestyle. Thomas Stone's 20-man squad also includes talented junior Blake Hamilton.

Calvert junior Eli Breitburg-Smith was swimming long distances last season until Coach Keith Hedra found out he was an even better sprinter. This year, he'll swim the 50 and 100 freestyle. Seniors Josh Griffin and Steve Putt are solid fourth-year swimmers who will swim the sprint races.

Only eight swimmers came out for the Lackey squad, so everyone is sure to see a lot of action in the pool. Junior Russ Conover, the Chargers' captain, swims all the strokes and will lead the team. Coach Melissa Doty is looking for good things from the experienced Rabie brothers: Sulieman, a sophomore, swims freestyle and backstroke, and Carlin, a freshman, has a strong butterfly.

Juniors Alex Phaup (breaststroke) and Josh Turner (various strokes) will lead Westlake this season.

SMAC GIRLS

Westlake captured the SMAC championship a year ago but, much like the McDonough boys, had its depth diminished by graduations. Juniors Laura Halsey (breaststroke, freestyle, backstroke, butterfly) and Cassie Ritchey (backstroke) lead the Wolverines. Coach Meg Romero said she has a talented core of about 10 swimmers that have year-round club experience.

Seniors Heather Vance (50, 100 freestyle), Mary Scott (breaststroke, individual medley) and Jessica Lohman (100 butterfly) make Thomas Stone one of the SMAC's most talented teams. All three swim relays for the Cougars, with Vance the anchor. "It's hard to tell right now, but I think our freestyle relay [teams] are going to be pretty dangerous," Coach Amy Kartzman said.

Northern pulled an upset victory over Westlake last season in the Maryland Invitational, and will look to senior Emily Dare (butterfly, breaststroke) and sophomore Kacy Cribbs (individual medley, breaststroke) to repeat that feat. Freshman Brittany Lee is an accomplished national AAU swimmer (who nearly broke the Northern record for the 50 freestyle in practice), but won't be available for meets until January because of club commitments.

Coombs said he is optimistic that the depth on his squad will help Patuxent improve on last year's fourth-place finish in the SMAC. Key to those aspirations are seniors Kim Shiplet (50, 100 freestyle, butterfly, individual medley) and Katie Zimmerman (butterfly, breaststroke). Coombs is also high on freshmen Hannah Loch and Aimee Shiplet.

Hedra said Calvert is looking for a top-three finish in the SMAC. Senior Christy Stratchko is a year-round club swimmer and will race the butterfly and 200 individual medley. Senior Anna White (breaststroke) and impressive newcomer Kelly Baron (individual medley) will strengthen a squad that lost one senior to graduation.

At Lackey, junior Kristin Sharek (individual medley, 200 freestyle) and senior captain Jessica Golanti (breaststroke, backstroke, freestyle, butterfly) are the core of what Doty called a really strong girls' team. Doty also said freshman Erica Hamor has been impressive at practice in the 500 freestyle.

McDonough is led by junior Molly Simpson (200 freestyle, 500 freestyle), and should get strong performances from freshmen Karen Elder (breaststroke, individual medley) and Lydia Michela (freestyle and medley relays).

Freshman Stephanie Stall and junior Megan Vaira will be the key athletes for La Plata. Wiegand said both are strong all-around swimmers.