Regis Jesuit remains the class of the swimming pool in 2013, with everybody else trying to play catch up to a program that’s won 17 state championships in the past 18 seasons.
As usual, coach Mike Doherty’s Raiders are loaded with depth, as 14 swimmers who placed in at least one event at last season’s Class 5A state meet are back in the pool. Through the first four meets of the new season alone, Regis Jesuit already had 20 state qualifiers.
At the top end, senior Clark Smith and junior Hennessey Stuart — who both competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials over the summer — give the Raiders a 1-2 punch that will be hard for anybody to match.
Smith, who is following in the footsteps of his elite parents by going to the University of Texas, is a three-time 5A state champion in the 100-yard butterfly and is also a star in the 200 freestyle among other events.
Stuart has yet to win an individual state championship, but swam on the Raiders’ state record-setting 400-yard freestyle relay last season and placed in the finals in two individual events. Stuart has the second-fastest time in Colorado in the 100-yard backstroke.
Seniors Erik Biernat and Zach Suter both placed in two events last season and swam on championship-winning relay teams, while junior Chris Dawson and a number of others also return.
Regis Jesuit’s other returning state champion is on the diving board, as sophomore Kyle Goodwin will try to defend his 5A title as part of a strong group for coach Taylor Roberts.
Goodwin and junior Matt Mauser finished 1-2 in the finals last season and are aiming to repeat the feat, while the Raiders have another state placer back in senior Christopher Clayton.
Aurora is also home to a variety of solid programs, including Smoky Hill, which returns three state placers in junior Juhan Hong, senior Mason Markle and junior diver Chris Hartman.
Hong placed ninth in the 500-yard freestyle last season and could make a big jump in the event, while Markle placed in the breaststroke last season and Hartman on the diving board.
Junior Derek Liu and sophomore Alex Kohlman are other key pieces for coach Scott Cohen’s team, which also has a strong addition in freshman Aidan Mercer.
Mercer is a longtime club swimmer, but has enjoyed the team aspect of swimming in high school. He excels in the 100-yard breaststroke and is already within striking distance of the Smoky Hill pool record time set by graduated senior Steven Holiday, who placed third in 5A last season.
The Buffaloes won their first three dual meets of the season, including a decisive victory on March 22 against rival Grandview.
The Wolves have graduated veteran talent in the past few years and have been replenished with young up-and-comers such as sophomore Triston Mosby and freshman James Boone.
Cherokee Trail continues to grow as a program and has a returning state placer in junior TJ Konde, whose goal is to significantly improve on the 16th-place result he turned in last season in the 100 backstroke.
Konde, juniors Josh Bedford and Sean Kim and senior Mitchell Stieg swam on 200 medley relay team that tied for 15th at state last season and hopes to improve.
The Aurora Public Schools co-op team based out of Hinkley — which won last season’s EMAC championship — is led by senior Sam Buchholz and juniors Tim Martin and Steve Banuelos-Loya.
Overland has a budding diver in junior Scott Stellick and enough pieces to qualify at least one relay for the state meet in coach Mike Pineda’s opinion.
Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at [email protected] or 303-750-7555
2013 BOYS SWIMMING KEY DATES, INFORMATION
Key dates — Dick Rush Coaches Invite: March 30; Smoky Hill Invitational: April 13; League championship meets: May 10-11; Class 5A state meet: May 17-18 at Edora Pool & Ice Center
Aurora swimmers to watch: Steve Banuelos-Loya, Hinkley (APS), jr.; Josh Bedford, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Erik Biernat, Regis Jesuit, sr.; James Boone, Grandview, fr.; Sam Buchholz, Hinkley (APS), sr.; Chris Dawson, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Kelton Erickson, Overland, soph.; Kyle Goodwin, Regis Jesuit, soph.*; Chris Hartman, Smoky Hill, jr.; Juhon Hong, Smoky Hill, jr.; Sean Kim, Cherokeee Trail, jr.; Alex Kohlman, Smoky Hill, soph.; TJ Konde, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Derek Liu, Smoky Hill, jr.; Mason Markle, Smoky Hill, sr.; Tim Martin, Hinkley (APS), jr.; Matt Mauser, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Aidan Mercer, Smoky Hill, fr.; Triston Mosby, Grandview, soph.; Austin Phillips, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Clark Smith, Regis Jesuit, sr.*; Tim Smith, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Phil Sobzcak, Overland, jr.; Scott Stellick, Overland, jr.; Hennessey Stuart, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Quinlan Stuart, Regis Jesuit, soph.; Garrett Suter, Regis Jesuit, soph.; Zach Suter, Regis Jesuit, sr.
* — Returning state champion