Teams to watch
Land O’ Lakes: Brian Vaile heads into his second season as the coach and this squad might be one of the most talented for the Gators. Though they lost three swimmers from last year, including Cameron Hilgenberg, the club has 16 this season and several should be region and state qualifiers.
Mitchell: The Mustangs are another top Pasco County swim team with a second-year coach Tanner Schmitz. With many returners, including a state qualifier, they should make a strong run once again for the state finals.
Sunlake: The Seahawks are coming off the program’s first district championship for the boys and girls. Now, Sunlake will set its sights on competing with neighborhood-rival Land O’ Lakes for the Sunshine Athletic Conference championship. With several key returners back, the Seahawks will be a force once again.
Wiregrass Ranch: The Bulls lose top swimmer Matt Menendez to graduation and last year’s coach, Adam Stoll, has stepped away from the program. Though Wiregrass still features plenty of talent and Alisa Cimino will take over coaching both the boys and girls.
Ridgewood: The Rams are no longer under the direction of coach Casey Claflin, who stepped away from the program. Sue Vien takes over the boys program, which returns one of the county’s top swimmers, and she also coaches the girls.
Swimmers to watch
Emir Muratovic, Sr., Ridgewood: After winning a gold medal in the 50 freestyle in Class 2A, no swimmer enters the season with more expectations to cap off a high school career.
Kevin Smith, Jr., Mitchell: Will look to recapture success he had as a freshman in 2012 and should qualify for states in the 100 backstroke.
Jordan Wheeler, Jr., Land O’ Lakes: Finished fifth in the 200 IM and takes aim at the state title this season.
Patrick Douglas, Sr., Fivay: Finished sixth at the Class 2A-Region 2 meet and eyes a trip to states this season.
Jabari Ramsey, Fr., Land O’ Lakes: An up-and-coming freshman to keep an eye on after his club swim times rival the top swimmers in the county.
Teams to watch
Land O’ Lakes: The Gators’ annual goals are the same: win a Sunshine Athletic Conference championship, a district title and send swimmers to the state meet. With Robin Hilgenberg back for her 13th season as coach, there’s no reason to think Land O’ Lakes won’t meet these objectives.
Mitchell: Kelly Erickson returns for her second season coach and her squad returns many 2013 faces. The Mustangs’ goals are identical from a year ago, as they aim to nab a district championship and send several swimmers to regions and states.
Sunlake: The Seahawks won their first district championship last fall. With talented swimmers returning to the roster, including underclassmen, Sunlake will be in the hunt for another district crown.
Hudson: Julie Heise’s program has made strides, and the Cobras may take their next step and compete for a district championship.
Academy at the Lakes: The Wildcats got a key transfer during the offseason, with Abbey Duncan coming over from Wesley Chapel. Duncan won a state championship last season and will lead Academy this fall.
Swimmers to watch
Taylor Anderson, Jr., Mitchell: Won the 2A state title in the 50 freestyle and looks to add to that in her final season.
Athena Cimino, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch: Finished eighth in Class 3A in the 100 freestyle and has a strong chance at capturing a state championship.
Abbey Duncan, So., Academy at the Lakes: Transferred from Wesley Chapel after winning a 1A state title in the 200 freestyle and nearly another in the 100 butterfly; will be the favorite in both events this fall.
Kara Wilkins, So., Sunlake: Qualified for the 2A state meet in the 100 backstroke and looks to duplicate the feat.
Pierce Imperialbobis, So., Land O’ Lakes: Looks to qualify for states in the 500 freestyle after an impressive freshman year.
Domineeka Luis, Jr., Hudson: Finished 15th in Class 2A diving and should qualify for states in what could be a top-five finish.
Correspondent Andy Villamarzo covers prep swimming in Pasco County. He can be reached at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @andyvillamarzo.