PRESEASON TOP 10

1, Middleton

2, Madison Edgewood

3, Verona/Mount Horeb

4, Madison Memorial

5, Sun Prairie

6, McFarland

7, Madison West

8, Waunakee

9, DeForest

10, Sauk Prairie

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

Can anyone challenge? Last year, the WIAA state meets were dominated by Middleton (Division 1) and Madison Edgewood (Division 2). They’ll be tough to catch this year. The Cardinals won state last year with 265 points, or 49.5 more than runner-up Verona/Mount Horeb. Of the 151 points Middleton scored in individual events at state, 138 of those are from swimmers and divers who return this fall. Middleton also scored 114 points in the three relay events – only six fewer than the maximum possible – and returns every single leg of those relays. That’s a tall order for any team to match. Edgewood suffered a bit more in graduation losses, including the loss of four-time state diving champ Ginger Lingard. But they also won state by 113 points last year over McFarland, and return six swimmers who garnered 10 top-eight finishes at state last year. They also get a huge transfer with the addition of Jenna Silvestri, who has swum at state the past three years for the D2 Kohler co-op, near Sheboygan. She took second last year in the 200-yard individual medley and tied for first in the 100 breaststroke. Don’t be surprised if the Crusaders make another run at their Division 2 state scoring record of 337 points.

Chasing state records: WIAA state records must be set at the state meet, and this year, area Division 2 swimmers look to have the best shot at breaking marks. McFarland junior Alex Moderski currently holds D2 state records in the 50 (22.84) and 100 (50.26) freestyle, both set in her groundbreaking freshman season. She was close to both marks as a sophomore last year. Edgewood’s Kelly Rodriguez looks like a primate candidate for a record run in her favorite race, the 200 free. Her state-meet progression in the race: 1:54.44 as a freshman, 1:52.40 as a sophomore, and 1:49.41 last year. The state record is 1:48.83, set in 2012 by Shorewood’s Kristin Malone. Rodriguez will almost certainly swim the event fresh at state, as coach Emily Schwabe prefers to keep her off the 200 medley relay – the first event at the state meet. The 200 free is the meet’s second event. And don’t count out Edgewood’s Silvestri, who has had a similar progression in her times in the 200 IM as Rodriguez in the 200 free. Silvestri was 2:04.79 in finishing 2nd last year at state, nearly three seconds faster than her time in 2016. The state record is 2:03 flat set in 2013 by Shorewood’s Rachel Munson, and notably Silvestri was well ahead of Munson’s record pace last year at state. With a strong back half, Silvestri could make a run at the record. In D1, Verona/Mount Horeb’s Grace Bennin looks to have the best shot in the 100 breastroke. Part of the new generation of breaststrokers with rapid stroke turnovers, Bennin won the event last year in 1:02.13 and wasn’t too far off the D1 state record of 1:01.72.

Relay, relay good: Don’t be surprised if both Middleton and Edgewood make a run at state records in the 200 and 400 free relays. The Cardinals were within .21 seconds of the D1 record in the 200 free relay of 1:33.51, set in 2014 by Verona/Mount Horeb. All four swimmers return to that relay for Middleton, as they do in the 400 free relay, where Middleton’s winning time last year was 2.44 seconds off the record – not a huge amount in a 16-lap race. Edgewood missed the state record by 0.28 seconds in the 200 free relay last year, and all four swimmers return — including Rodriguez, who had a monster anchor leg last year for a come-from-behind victory. Edgewood set the D2 mark in the 400 free relay last year, and returns three from that relay, plus the possible addition of Silvestri – who had one of the few sub-53 second splits in the event last year.

Big 8 dominance: Can the Big 8 Conference repeat its performance from last year, when it placed five teams in the top 10 at state? Don’t count it out – Middleton and Verona/Mount Horeb look like sure bets to do so, and Madison West, Madison Memorial and Sun Prairie return enough solid swimmers to offset some significant graduation losses. Each of those three also adds an impact freshman – Bridget Sullivan at West, Kiara Bissen at Memorial and Sophie Fiske at Sun Prairie.

Natatorium fading away: The old UW Natatorium, now in its sixth decade of use, draws plenty of scorn from hardcore swim fans. The new, Olympic-sized pool facility being built next to the Kohl Center (at the SERF) will hold 1,100 spectators — 400 fewer than "The Nat." And half of those new seats won’t sit directly over the high school competition pool, they’ll be above the 30 yards of pool not being used for a high school swim meet. That leaves less than 600 good seats for the state high school meets, compared to 1,500 at the Nat. The SERF pool is set to make its debut in the fall of 2019 or spring of 2020.

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWNS

BIG EIGHT

With five teams placing in the top 10 at D1 state last year, the Big 8 showed it’s the state’s deepest conference. Middleton returns a bevy of top-tier performers: defending 100 butterfly champ Gabriela Pierobon Mays, sprinters Cora Mack and Caroline Hippen, distance swimmer Hannah Aegerter, medley/sprinter Makenna Licking, backstroke/butterfly Chiara Pierobon Mays, and diver Eleanor Mackey. Add in sophomore breaststroker Alex Anagnostopoulos, and top freshman Alyssa Silvestri (breaststroke, 200 IM), and the Cardinals have a near-perfect state-meet squad: Deep, versatile, and loaded with swimmers who can contribute fast 50 and 100 free relay legs.

Verona/Mount Horeb is led by Grace Bennin, defending state champ in the 100 breaststroke. She’s also a top sprinter and relay swimmer. Sophie Henshue and Gabby Gnewuch give the Wildcats a solid one-two punch in the distance events, and senior diver Maggie Nunn has a solid shot of earning a top-six finish on the podium. Sara Stewart had a solid freshman year, and freshman Bailey Felsheim should earn a lineup spot.

Madison Memorial is led by sprinter Olivia Bloomer, who has the potential to make the podium (top six) at state. Alison Spielman (sprints) and Ella Defever (distance) lend depth and Kiara Bissen should make an immediate impact in the breaststroke. Memorial also has a solid group of divers led by Natalie Donkle, 11th at state last year.

Sun Prairie suffered big graduation losses, including 500 free state champ Rachel Powers, but got a great season last year out of freshman Cassidy Carey (eighth in the 100 butterfly). Freshman sprinter Sophie Fiske joins the Cardinals after a decorated club career, and juniors Michaela Nelson, Emily Rundahl and Lydia Collins add depth.

Madison West lost some key swimmers to graduation, but junior Katrina Marty returns as defending state champ in the 100 backstroke. Freshman Bridget Sullivan should contribute right away in free sprints and backstroke, and senior Zoe Sebranek will handle free sprints.

Janesville Craig is led by senior Erin Donagan, who made the podium last year in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM.

Beloit Memorial’s Heaven Wells returns for her senior season after finishing eighth at state in the 100 backstroke.

BADGER NORTH

Waunakee looks to defend the conference title that it won last year by more than 80 points over Baraboo. Kaitlyn Wilhelms is a top distance swimmer who last year took 10th in the 500 free and 14th in the 200 free at D1 state. Abi Schmeiser in the fly and Megan Pierce in distance events will play key roles on the Waunakee team this year, and look for freshman Ella Graf to make an impact on the varsity lineup.

Baraboo had the third-best state finish in program history last year, taking fifth at D2 state (the Thunderbirds were third in 2003 and 2005). Baraboo got help from three solid relays, each of which finished on the podium. Junior Kirby Tock is the top returning swimmer after taking fifth last year in the 100 fly and 14th in the 200 IM. Mackenzie Koehler added a 12th in the 100 backstroke.

DeForest moves back down to Division 2 after a year in D1; distance swimmer Anna Pilecky leads the way for the Norskies, and sophomore Haley Willis, juniors Marnie Martin and Camryn Hargraves and senior Amber Taugher provide solid depth.

Sauk Prairie forged an eighth-place finish at D2 state last year and returns Sydney Rall, the 10th-place finisher in the 100 back.

Beaver Dam joins the conference this year after the Wisconsin Little Ten Conference was disbanded by the WIAA.

BADGER SOUTH

Madison Edgewood looks to maintain its run of conference titles and is well-positioned to do so in the competitive Badger South. Seniors Kelly Rodriguez and Jenna Silvestri lead the way with state titles to their names, but junior sprinters Izzy Petersen and Kaitlyn Barth are key components after each had top-six finishes in both sprints at state last year. A strong sophomore class includes Maeve O’Driscoll (sprints), Mallory Todd (butterfly/medley) and DeeDee Walker (distances). Grace Conroy finished 13th last year in diving as a sophomore.

Sprint state champ Alex Moderski leads McFarland, but the Spartans are far from a one-swimmer team. Seniors Emily Hanson and Hannah Nygaard have made multiple appearances at state in relays and individual events, and sophomores Ella Weaver and Emily Landwehr had outstanding freshman years.

Milton moved up to D1 last year and had one of the state’s top freshmen in Danielle Cramer, who finished seventh in the 100 back and 12th in the 100 fly.

Monona Grove will have one of the top diving tandems in the state, with senior Nikki Benedict, who was second at state last year, joined by freshman Trinity McNall.

Fort Atkinson will build around sophomore Mariah Marowsky, who gwas fourth last year in the 200 free and ninth in the 100 free.

Monroe/New Glarus senior Madelyn Hammer made the podium at D2 state, tying for sixth in the 100 free, and teammate Nino Schiro made it to state in both the 500 free and 100 back.

Stoughton’s Maddie Kooima looks for a return trip to D2 state after a 15th-place finish in the 100 back.

Watertown joins the conference this year from the old Wisconsin Little Ten.

SOUTHERN LAKES

Lake Geneva Badger looms as the heavy favorite to take the Southern Lakes Conference after its 191.5-point victory margin over Burlington last year.

Jefferson/Cambridge’s Megan Duffy earned a tie for ninth at D2 state in the 50 free; the co-op also returns all four swimmers from its 11th-place 200 free relay and 14th-place 400 free relay.

Edgerton’s Gaby de Mayo-Cotter took 12th in the 100 fly at state last year.

SWIMMERS TO WATCH

Alex Moderski, jr., McFarland: The three-time state champ holds the D2 state record in the 50 free and is one of only five swimmers in state history to break the 23-second mark. She’ll look for a third consecutive victory in the 50 freestyle this season — along with another run at the 100 free, which she won as a freshman and set the current D2 state record.

Kelly Rodriguez, sr., Madison Edgewood: The two-time defending D2 state champ in the 200 free is back for more. A versatile freestyler, she’ll be featured on both of Edgewood’s free relays, and could return to the 500 free this year after a second-place state finish as a sophomore.

Grace Bennin, jr., Verona/Mount Horeb: The versatile junior won the D1 100 breaststroke last year and came within an eyelash of winning the 50 free, missing out by just .12 seconds. She could also play a central role in the Wildcats’ 200 medley relay, where she could provide one of the stronger breaststroke or butterfly legs in the field.

Katrina Marty, jr., Madison West: She recorded the fifth-fastest time in the state history in taking the D1 100 backstroke last year; only Verona/Mount Horeb’s famed Beata Nelson (now at Wisconsin) has swum faster in the event. She’s also an outstanding butterfly swimmer, taking second at state last year. Not the tallest of swimmers, Marty is one of the best technical swimmers in D1, and has some of the best underwater pushes off walls in the state.

Gabriela Pierobon Mays, so., Middleton: A catalyst for Middleton’s first D1 state title in program history, Pierobon Mays won the 100 butterfly state title as a freshman, finished third in the 100 backstroke, and anchored the team’s winning 400 free relay to put a big exclamation mark on the Cardinals’ state team title.

Jenna Silvestri, sr., Madison Edgewood: A transfer from the Kohler co-op swim program near Sheboygan, which she helped lead to sixth in the D2 team race last year. She finished second in the 200 IM at state and tied for first in the 100 breaststroke, making her in instant state title contender in both races for the Crusaders. She’ll likely swim breaststroke on Edgewood’s medley relay, along with a leg on one of their free relays.

Cora Mack, jr., Middleton: Mack had perhaps the best state meet of any Cardinal last year, moving up several spots from her seeded positions to grab third in the 50 free and second in the 100 free. She’ll be a key figure in the Cardinals’ state relays, as she had some of the fastest splits last year at for Middleton’s state-champion 200 and 400 free relays.

Hannah Aegerter, jr., Middleton: With the graduation of 500 free champ Rachel Powers of Sun Prairie, Aegerter inherits the role as the area’s top distance swimmer. She was second at state last year in the 200 free and third in the 500 free, and should contend for both state titles this season. She’s versatile as well, and can drop down to swim solid legs on the team’s free relays.

Erin Donagan, sr., Janesville Craig: A fixture at the D1 state meet the past three years, Donagan has consistently churned out quality races at state. Last year she was third in the 200 IM and fifth in the 100 breaststroke. She has scored points in every state race she’s participated in since she was a freshman.

Nikki Benedict, sr., Monona Grove: With the graduation of four-time state champ Ginger Lingard of Edgewood, Benedict rates as an early favorite for the D2 state diving title. She finished second behind Lingard last year and has never finished lower than fourth at state.

EVENTS TO WATCH

REGULAR SEASON

Friday, Sept. 15: Middleton at Verona/Mount Horeb. This dual meet could determine the Big Eight Conference dual-meet champion.

Tuesday, Sept. 19: Waunakee at DeForest. The top two teams in the Badger North meet in a dual.

Saturday, Sept. 30: Middleton Invitational. Scheduled to participate: Beaver Dam/Randolph, Beloit Memorial, Chicago Fenwick, Edina (Minn.), Greendale, La Crosse Logan, Madison East, Madison Memorial, Madison West, McFarland, Menomonee Falls/Sussex Hamilton, Monona Grove, Oregon/Belleville, Schofield D.C. Everest, Stevens Point, Sun Prairie and Waunakee.

Saturday, Oct. 14: Small School State Invitational at Shorewood: Participants include area entries Madison Edgewood, McFarland and Baraboo.

Tuesday, Oct. 17: McFarland at Madison Edgewood: The two top teams in the Badger South Conference meet in a dual.

CONFERENCE MEETS

Thursday: Southern Lakes Conference Relays at Lake Geneva Badger.

Tuesday, Aug. 29: Badger North Relays at Waunakee.

Thursday, Aug. 31: Badger South Relays at Stoughton.

Friday, Oct. 27: Big Eight diving at Middleton.

Saturday, Oct. 28: Big Eight swimming at Middleton; Badger North at Jack Young Middle School, Baraboo; Badger South at Monona Grove; Southern Lakes Conference at Whitewater.

WIAA MEETS

Friday, Nov. 3: Diving sectionals at Middleton.

Saturday, Nov. 4: Swimming sectionals at Middleton, Cedarburg, Waukesha South, Stoughton and Whitefish Bay.

Friday, Nov. 10: Division 2 state meet at University of Wisconsin Natatorium.

Saturday, Nov. 11: Division 1 state meet at University of Wisconsin Natatorium.

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