Cutting athletes can be one of the most difficult tasks facing high school coaches.

Just ask Laurel coach John Venit, who hasn't dealt with telling a swimmer he or she wasn't good enough to compete on the varsity since 2008.

"We had 70 kids come out and we had to cut it down to the 50s," said Venit, in his 28th season as Laurel's head coach.

But Venit said he found some good in having to make the cuts.

The large number of swimmers crowding the roster makes the Spartans a deeper and better team than in past seasons.

Venit loves that the numbers are up, and particularly the class of promising freshmen girls that joined the team: Olivia Pettyjohn-Robin, Jessica Martin, Kelly Horn, Megan Hendershot, Sheeba Fallah and Ibrahim Keita.

And the coach is seeing the depth pay off in the results.

The Laurel boys and girls teams each started the season with a sterling 7-2 mark. Laurel's biggest highlight came in mid-January when both teams beat archrival High Point convincingly.

The Spartans only loss for both squads in the first two months of the season came to defending Prince George's County champion Eleanor Roosevelt.

"This is the deepest teams we have had in a couple of years," Venit said. "These swimmers are really dedicated. That's the best part. We had a lot of new freshmen come in, which was outstanding. We had swimmers come in two years ago that were just learning to swim. They are now a major part of the team."

Now with the regular season behind the Spartans, they are sharply focused on post-season success in February. The schedule includes the county, regional and state championships.

"We call it championship month," Venit said.

It all starts with the 21-team county championships on Feb. 8.

Sophomore Caroline Sutton figures to make the biggest splash of any Spartan.

Sutton finished second in both the 100-yard breaststoke and the 200 individual medley in the county championships.

She was also second in the Class 3A-4A South Region championships in both events.

"She is our top dog," Venit said. "She was first-team All-County as a freshman. That's pretty impressive. The backstroke is her best stroke. She trains really hard and just loves it. Sometimes, when you love something, you do better in it."

Sutton swam a 1:07.96 in the backstroke last year in the county meet, but she's getting faster and posted a season-best 1:04 in late December in the Holiday Invitational.

Sutton, who is in her fourth season of swimming year-round for the Maryland Suburban Swim Club in Laurel, has county and regional titles on her mind.

"Second is getting kind of boring," Sutton said. "My best chance to win is in the 100 back. I feel more confident this year."