The Racine County high school girls swimming scene keeps on changing, and this year is no different.
One of the biggest changes comes at Case, where four-time state qualifying diver McKenzie Sanchez has graduated and is diving for UW-Milwaukee. Sophomore Taylor Kaplan and senior Calie Gulbrandson have been working to be the heir-apparents to Sanchez under the tutelage of diving coach Dave Arvai.
The Eagles also seem to be able to reload their front-line swimmers each season and this year is no exception. The addition of freshman Sofia Badillo, a long-time swimmer with South Eastern Aquatics, will help as she joins her sister Natalia with the Eagles.
Horlick has also added a few club swimmers and Park has some talent and some inexperience.
In the Southern Lakes Conference, Burlington Co-op is off to a good start behind some veteran talent, while second-year program Prairie-St. Catherine’s continues to build up its program.
Here’s a look at the five Racine County teams:
SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE Case Eagles
COACH: Frank Michalowski, 26th season.
LAST SEASON: 4-2 SEC dual meets, won SEC Relays, fifth at SEC Meet, fifth at WIAA Division 1 Greenfield Sectional, 27th at WIAA State Meet.
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Seniors — Sara Bollendorf (all-around), Maya Frodl (freestyle/butterfly/backstroke), Calie Gulbrandson (diving), Taylor Knaus (freestyle/IM/breaststroke). Juniors — Natalia Badillo (all-around), Emily Hart (freestyle/breaststroke), Samyukta Munagavalasa (freestyle/backstroke), Madi Peterson (distance freestyle/backstroke). Sophomores — Bronte Jansen (freestyle), Taylor Kaplan (diving), Ava Knaus (freestyle/backstroke), Zarah Herron (freestyle/backstroke/butterfly).
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: A solid group of freshmen, led by Sofia Badillo, will add more depth to an already solid lineup. The seniors and the Badillo sisters will lead the way and Gulbrandson and Kaplan will try to keep the Eagles’ diving tradition going.
“Swimmers who can swim multiple strokes besides freestyle will be a key factor and a strength in every dual meet and invite this season,” Michalowski said. “The divers will be competitive and give depth in scoring in all meets.”
COACH: Katie James, first season.
LAST SEASON: Sixth at SEC Meet, ninth at WIAA Division 1 Greenfield Sectional, tied for 35th at WIAA Division 1 State Meet.
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Seniors — Isabelle Buhler (freestyle/breaststroke), Emaleigh Neo (individual medley), Kinzie Reischl (individual medley), Tia Ricchio (freestyle), Ally Spang (freestyle/butterfly), Stephanie Strange (butterfly/freestyle). Junior — Elizabeth Stratman (individual medley).
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: In addition to established swimmers Buhler, Neo, Reischl and Stratman, Horlick has added freshmen Arev Buchaklian (butterfly), Jorja Makovsky (freestyle) and Alice Stratman (breaststroke, freestyle), all club swimmers. The Rebels are also adjusting to new styles of coaching and practice.
“We are being more mindful of everything we do and how it affects our performance,” James said. “This season, we hope to finish ahead of where we ended last season.”
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COACH: Greg Reischl, 21st season.
LAST SEASON: 1-6 SEC dual meets, eighth at SEC Meet.
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Seniors — Josie Bennett (backstroke/freestyle), Najee Jones (all-around/freestyle), Maliah Halkowitz (freestyle), Kaitlyn Keller (freestyle). Juniors — Mikk Eisel (all-around/breaststroke), Rileigh Smith-Hopkins (freestyle), Demariyona Strong (all-around). Sophomore — Bri Jones (all-around).
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Panthers have the most experienced coaching staff in the county — Reischl, diving coach Andy Kortendick (31 years at Park) and assistant coaches Jeff Nelson (19), Gregg Creuziger (11) and Brittany Linnhart (4) combine for 86 years of experience. That will be a big help to a team with a lack of depth, but a good work ethic and a good core of experienced swimmers.
“We have been blessed with dedicated, hard-working kids,” said Reischl, whose team lost five seniors including two-time team co-MVP Tori Jones.
SOUTHERN LAKES CONFERENCE Burlington Co-op Demons
COACH: Denita Jones, eighth season.
LAST SEASON: 8-1 SLC dual meets; second in SLC Meet, third at WIAA Division 1 Greenfield Sectional.
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS (B-Burlington; UG-Union Grove; W-Waterford; CC-Catholic Central): Seniors — Sydney Lueth (UG), Sami Reesman (W), Libby Slauson (W-butterfly/freestyle), Brianna Smith (W-distance freestyle), Izzy Craig (CC). Juniors — Paige Tello (B-backstroke/freestyle), Natalie Vitek (UG), Ashley Maier (UG), Hania Dahms (W-sprint freestyle), Amanda Richards (W-backstroke/freestyle), Sydney Hernandez (W), Morgan Dietzel (CC-backstroke/individual medley/freestyle). Sophomore — Megan Schultz (UG-breaststroke/individual medley)
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Demons have a ton of experience coming back, led by the seniors. Several swimmers just missed qualifying for the WIAA State Meet last year and could be on track to make an appearance in Madison this year.
“We are looking forward to an exciting year with a lot of depth from our returning swimmers,” Jones said. “Our goal this year is to improve and grow as a team from the year prior. I am ready to watch the girls gain experience and potentially move from JV to varsity.
COACH: Yoav Meiri, second season.
LAST SEASON: 0-9 dual meets, ninth in SLC, 14th at WIAA Division 2 New Berlin Eisenhower Sectional.
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Seniors — Hanna Hua (freestyle/IM), Laurel Lasch (breaststroke/butterfly). Juniors — Olivia Andreasen (freestyle/IM), Abbie Determan (backstroke/butterfly), Marisol Valeriano (freestyle), Mckenna Barbee (distance freestyle). Sophomores — Fien Muelman (freestyle/breaststroke/butterfly), Lily Larson (backstroke).
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Meiri is pleased to have a group of experienced swimmers back, led by Hua, the program’s best swimmer last year. The second-year program isn’t ready to challenge for major accolades, Meiri said, but the program and its swimmers continue to grow and develop.