Howard County's boys swimming and diving teams have been saddled with the daunting task of heading into Hamilton County for its sectional meets in recent years, where it annually takes on the likes of juggernauts Carmel, Noblesville and Fishers.
But the county proved to be a formidable foe a season ago, with 21 returning athletes placing in the top 16 in last season's sectional meet, including 10 from Western, five from Kokomo and four from four-time defending Mid-Indiana Conference champion Northwestern. Needless to say, the future, this season in particular, looks bright.
Below are season outlooks for each team, in rank of sectional finish from a season ago.
With a nice mix of returning swimmers and divers and newcomers, the Purple Tigers are ready to go.
"Lots of experience, good leadership, and some of the new kids are coming along great," Northwestern coach Cindy Britten said. "Everyone has been working hard. They're anxious to get some competition under their belt. We travel to Pioneer [tonight] and we'll see how things go. We're looking for great things from them again this year."
The Tigers return five seniors — Anthony Catt (butterfly, backstroke), Will DeVaul (50, 100, 200 freestyle), Griffin Longshore (all-around, likely keying in on butterfly), Kyle Miller (200, 500 freestyle) and Jacob Schmidt (breaststroke, free).
"It's a good group of seniors," Britten said.
Also back for the Tigers are juniors Joel Austin (sprint free, butterfly), Darren Curry (breaststroke, sprint free), Drew Harris (free, breaststroke) and Michael Thibault (free) and sophomores Gray Longshore (all-around, likely keying in on distance events) and Will Harris. Also back is junior Aden Merchant, who is on the mend following shoulder surgery.
The Longshore brothers led the Tigers in the sectional last season. Griffin was seventh in the butterfly and ninth in the 200 IM and Gray was eighth in the 500 free and 10th in the 200 free. In addition, Griffin helped the Tigers to a fifth-place finish in the 200 medley relay and both brothers swam on a 200 free relay team that finished fifth.