Warren G. Harding juniors Emily and Dylan Thirion are the heart and soul of the Raiders swimming teams.
The two Raiders athletes hope their teammates will follow their lead as the duo tries to make a return trip to the state meet in Canton.
Emily came close to making the state's top 16, which swim during finals, in the Division I 100-yard butterfly and in the 100-yard breaststroke. She lost out a chance to go to finals by losing a swimoff against Springboro's Ashley Whiteley. Both swam 58.39 seconds in preliminaries.
Dylan made state in the 100 freestyle.
"They're tremendous for our program," WGH coach Steve Lukco said. "Their work ethic, their leadership qualities. They're great kids to have around. They're working as hard as they can every day. They're intrinsically motivated. They go after it. They have their eyes on goals and they're doing everything they need to do to achieve them. I don't think anything is going to get in the way of doing that. They're really in a good spot mentally and physically right now. I can't wait to see how they do this year."
Dylan, senior Zack Williams and sophomore Mike Miller return in the 200 freestyle relay - a relay Harding has high hopes for this season.
"They were on pace to be All-American until we had our sectional meet," Lukco said. "We lost Sam Angelo (graduation), which was a big hit. We've got a couple of sophomores, fighting for that spot and a couple of juniors fighting for that as well. We'll have some pressing competition to see who is on that relay. Whoever it is, they have a great shot of going to Canton, not just going to Canton, but scoring at Canton. They've got a great shot of making finals and maybe All-American if they really apply themselves."
Juniors Steve Suchy, John Ohlin and Antonio Coletti, along with sophomores Nate Marchek and George Miranda plan to battle to see who will fill the final spot on the relay.
Senior Corey Butts, WGH's top diver, returns as well - trying to improve on last year's 12th-place finish at districts.
As for Miller, Lukco has high expectations for the sophomore, like breaking his 100 butterfly record he set for WGH in 1985 of 52.74.
"That would be awesome," Lukco said. "Mike has his eyes set on it. If he keeps working hard, we'll be pulling that name down and giving it to him and putting his name up there."
The WGH girls plan to work hard as well, led by Emily Thirion.
Juniors Thirion and Cara Hernon, sophomores Holly Angelo and Dominique Williams, along with junior Anastasia Chernaya plan to be integral members of the Raiders' squad.
Lukco said he's happy about the possibilities of both teams.
"There's a lot of quality young adults on our team. The chemistry and the composition of it is nice this year," he said.
HOWLAND: The Tigers had two state qualifiers last year in Aimee Gysegem and Brandon Sekanick.
Gysegem went in the Division I 500 freestyle, while Sekanick was in the Division II 100 breaststroke.
"She has expectations of getting back to the state meet," said Greg McAtee, who coaches independent swimmers like Gysegem (junior) through Penguins Swimming, which holds practices at the Beeghly Natatorium on the Youngstown State University campus. "Being there for the first time, it's kind of like a learning experience. After you have it under your belt, you feel a little more confident going into the next season."
Howland, which has sophomores Kaylie Miller and Jacqueline Baker, along with freshman Ryan Sekanick, is independent because the Tigers don't have enough members for a team. Despite that, Brandon, a senior, is ready to make progress this year.
"He has to keep doing what he's been doing year in and year out, getting better throughout the season and keep making those gains," McAtee said. "It's been a process getting to state and fun to watch."
HUBBARD: The Eagles have a new coach this year. Last year's coach Mike Barringer, got a teaching job in the Pittsburgh area.
Kamiren Sieman, who, like Barringer, was a 2008 Boardman High School graduate.
She was an assistant at Poland High School last year, but received a call from Barringer, telling Sieman about the opportunity to coach at Hubbard.
"It's awesome," Sieman said. "It's a different world than coaching for Poland. I had a great time coaching last year. This time, the kids are very respectful. They're willing to work. They're willing to put the time in. We really worked them hard with a couple of workouts. They're doing really good. They're able to put up with it, too."
The girls are led by senior Julia Castner, who made districts in the Division II 50 and 100 freestyle events.
"She was phenomenal," Sieman said. "She's a phenomenal swimmer. She's doing really great."
In addition to Castner, Hubbard sent the 200 and 400 freestyle relays to Division II districts last year. Along with Castner, junior Justine Castner, senior Leah McConnell and sophomore Danielle Evans return.
Spencer Ladig, a senior who went to the Division II districts last year in the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly, now leads the Eagles boys.
"He's a phenomenal butterflyer," Sieman said. "I hope to see amazing times from him. The times he went 50 in practice was faster than one USA Swim Meet he was in. Makes me feel good."
In addition, look for sophomore Robbie Dixon and freshman Alex Fox to have good years as well.
Dixon, Ladig and sophomore Hunter Herzberger return from the 400 freestyle relay that made districts last season.
"Lost seven seniors, girls and guys," Sieman said. "We've gained about seven more kids to fill their spots. We have about 13 girls on the team. Hopefully we'll be able to send another relay back to districts, at least, if not state."
OTHER INDEPENDENTS: Girard's Savannah Teter comes back this year after heading to state her sophomore year. Teter, coached by diving mentor Ron Navarra, went to the Division II state meet last year as a diver.
Lakeview sophomore Ashley Frasca, who swims the 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle, swims for Penguins Swimming.
Also part of Penguin Swimming, Grand Valley senior Joe Ray, who is in the 50 and 100 freestyle events, wants to break through the Division II district level this year.
"Each year, he keeps getting closer and closer to qualifying for the state meet," McAtee said. "I know we have that as one of our goals this year. We'll try the 200 free as well."
Niles freshman Jenna Taylor and Ursuline junior Dan Shiller also compete for Penguin Swimming.
In addition, Badger junior Blake Anderson returns this year, after competing in the 100 and 200 freestyle events one season ago. He'll be coached by former Hubbard mentor Tricia Wirtz.