If Aberdeen coach Pam Meuse could get all her swimmers in the pool at one time, she might know what to expect this season.
But with returning senior Dan Taylor out with an injured right hand, senior newcomer Charles Hoffman out with an ankle injury and five others missing practices due to illness, Meuse is hard-pressed to make any predictions.
Instead, she is focusing on long-range goals.
"I'd like to do better than our seventh-place finish in the county championships last year," said Meuse. "We're going to have a lot of depth and versatility. Hopefully, we can go strong into January."
This year, many freshmen and sophomores came out for the team, and Meuse expects to see improvement over the next few years.
Returners include junior diver John Loucks and versatile swimmer junior Matt Gerring, seniors B. J. Hubbard, Simon Keller and Kathy Stahl, and sophomores Joanna Hubbard and Melinda Cattell.
Loucks placed third in the county diving championships last year, and Cattell won the bronze in the 500-yard freestyle.
Last year, Bel Air won one of the closest Harford County swimming championships in recent years. Only 14 points separated the top three teams, with C. Milton Wright second and John Carroll third. This year, the race could be just as close.
The Bobcats return five individual county champs from a team that won 15 of 24 events at the title meet. But the Bobcats will need good performances by their newcomers if they plan to fight off the Mustangs and the Patriots again. Bel Air probably has the strongest boys team, bringing back four gold medalists from last year's county meet.
Senior Chris Holloway picked up three golds and a silver last season, winning the 200-meter individual medley and the 100 butterfly as well as helping the Bobcats' 400 freestyle relay team to victory in school-record time.
Also back are defending county champs Kevin Murach (50 freestyle, 100 backstroke), Erik Jankowiak (100 freestyle) and Rob Flynn (200 freestyle, 500 freestyle). Murach also holds the county record in the 100 breaststroke.
Versatile senior Jeff Meyer (backstroke, butterfly) also returns, and newcomers Dan Machovec, (freestyle, backstroke), Doug Coyner (freestyle, butterfly), Fred Branger (freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke) and Chris Callahan (diving) add depth.
On the girls side, sophomore Kathy Rising set a county record in the 100 breaststroke and went on to win the county title. She finished second in the 100 butterfly.
Anna DeMott (sprint freestyle, breaststroke), Betsy Steinen (breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle) and Jen Seidel (diving) are back, too. Versatile freshmen Kate Eyler, Jenny Meyer and Jen Locke have come on.
The Bobcats lost a couple of defending county champs, including Jenn Murach, who won two individual and two relay golds.
"Some of the girls we lost will be hard to replace," said Ray Hruz, head coach along with Jeff DeMott. "But this year, we should have more depth. We're not going to have as many first places as the girls did last year, but we should pick up more points with our B relays and our B-level swimmers."
C. Milton Wright
This year, more than 60 swimmers tried out for the team, so second-year coach Annie Lee was forced to make cuts down to the 40-member roster limit. She will carry 12 boys and 28 girls.
Eleven seniors graduated last year, five from the 11-member boys team, so there were plenty of spots to be filled.
But that means the Mustangs will be a little less experienced.
"My team is really young, so we spend a lot of time on fundamentals and stroking techniques . . . how to do a slant or a turn," said Lee, a competitive swimmer throughout high school and college.
Returning to the Mustangs are senior diver Josh Peters and long-distance swimmer junior Jen Shaw. Senior Justin Lassahn is a sprinter who also returns to lead the team.
Lee also hopes to establish some depth with the newcomers, including freshmen Laura Hershner and David Rueckert.
Some of the team's divers will be needed for certain swim events, and other swimmers will have to adjust to new events to balance out the team during competition, said Lee.
In last year's Harford County swimming championships, Edgewood's Sherwin Sapasap came within .43 seconds of breaking the 100-yard breaststroke record of 1:03.45.
This year, says Edgewood coach Ken Oldendick, look for the sophomore to change that.
Sapasap's best event is the breaststroke, but, Oldendick said, "I could probably enter him in any event and he would win or be very strong."
Sapasap and Ray Hieronimus (bronze, 500 freestyle), are two medal winners returning. Other returners are senior diver Jenni Blubaugh, juniors Denise Sines, Carrie Baker and Jason Zlotkowski.
Two newcomers are freshmen Michelle Marsillo and Kim Stackhouse.
Oldendick says his team is young and developing but figures to compete strongly. He says the team can better its fifth place in the county championships last year.
"My goal would be a third-place finish. That would be challenging," he said. "With hard work we can be in the upper half."
Eighteen girls are on the team, half of whom Oldendick says have experience. Of 11 boys on the team, seven are in their first year.
Fallston, after losing eight swimmers to graduation, is one of the youngest teams in the county. More than half of the swimmers are freshmen, said coach Mark Rhine.
Eric Grepps, who won the bronze medal in the 100-yard backstroke in last year's championships, will be the Cougars' only senior.
However, the team is balanced (22 girls, 18 boys).
"Even though we have a young team, we have a strong team," said Rhine.
The Cougars finished fourth in last year's county championships.
Returning girls swimmers are juniors Becky Egbert, Leigh Ference, Jennifer Hall, Amanda Kahmer and Jody Wax and sophomores Irene Cronk and Amy Kissinger.
Other returning boys are juniors Brian Schroeder and Brad Snyder and sophomores Jeff DeHart, David Fazehbaker and Brandon Gilcher.
"Our focus is to develop the good swimmers from our ninth-graders, some of whom do not have experience, and the other is to work with the more experienced swimmers to keep them in the best condition to improve in their events," Rhine said.
Harford Vo Tech
Harford Tech's Susan Alson may be coach of the county's smallest
swim team, but that hasn't stopped her from having a positive outlook.
Six swimmers are competing for the Cobras, all boys; only three swimmers competed last season.
"The real purpose of swimming competition is swimming your best time and improving stroke mechanics," said Alson.
The school will compete on an individual basis only.
Alson says this is a period of growth for the trade school with approximately 600 students.
Alson coached the team in the early '80s before the school dropped the program from 1985 to 1990. Harford Vo Tech is in its second consecutive year.
Sophomore Jason Hawkins, a freestyler, is the only returning swimmer.
Newcomers are sophomores Chris Dugent, Tim Palucki and Justin Barnhill and freshmen John Middendorf and Chris Endres.
Havre de Grace
The Warriors should be one of the most improved squads in the county.
Last year, the team finished ninth of 10 teams in the county championships. Its only medalist was third-place diver Lisa Flick, who has graduated.
This year, the Warriors have more depth and two new coaches, swimming veterans Aaron Thompson and Missy Hines.
Thompson has two goals -- improving on ninth place and breaking 75 percent of the team records. With a roster up to about 30 swimmers, the Warriors are off to a good start.
"We broke three records in our first scrimmage," said Thompson, whose sister is Olympic gold medalist Jenny Thompson.
"This will be a building year since the new kids are mostly freshmen and sophomores. But I think they'll have a lot of fun and learn a lot more about the sport. For a lot of the kids, this is the only team they've ever been on."
Returning for the girls are juniors Georgianna Davies (backstroke, butterfly), Amanda Walke (backstroke, sprint freestyle) and Kim Hill (breaststroke) along with diver Lindsay Shellenberger. Promising newcomers include freestyler Pam Craig and diver Erica Hagelan.
Juniors Stephen Cox (freestyle, butterfly) and Matt Carrico (freestyle, breaststroke) are the top boys back. Sophomores Sean McCone (breaststroke) and Jody Hochstein (backstroke, individual medley) add depth along with divers Mike Aborgast and Tony Lange.
The Patriots have had one of the strongest girls teams for the past few years, but the excitement this season is over a vastly improved boys squad. "We have two strong freshmen coming in who could really fill the void," said coach Al Herlinger.
The freshmen, Jeff Warwick and Liam Smith, are among the most versatile swimmers around. Warwick has established himself as the premier distance freestyler in the county. But Herlinger said Warwick will be on the blocks in every event at least once during the season.
Returning to the boys team are Chris Brandon (butterfly, freestyle), Sean McCarthy (backstroke, distance freestyle) and Gus Mundth (butterfly, freestyle). Divers Frank DeMuth and Eddie Maynard are back.
Herlinger is not just looking for wins from this group.
"My philosophy in all the years I've coached is that it's not the first places -- it's how many second and third places you take. I think we can take more of them this year," he said.
For the girls, the Patriots' top swimmer is senior Liz Harris, the county record holder in the 500 free.
Last year, however, Harris did not swim that event in the county championship, instead using her versatility to pick up titles in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly.
Sophomore Carrie Dannenfelser, second to Harris in the 200 individual medley, returns along with sophomore Angela Cuneo, third in the 200 freestyle. Juniors Colleen Kistner (distance freestyle, backstroke) and Mollie Brumfield are back along with senior Michele McCarthy (freestyle).
The Patriots also have the county's top girls diver, Heather Martin, who goes after a perfect career and her fourth straight title.
Mariners coach Ted Smith has more than doubled his boys roster, and he expects that depth to translate into a few more wins.
"With the boys, at least we have some numbers this year," said Smith, who has 12 boys on the squad.
"Last year, we had five boys. We had situations like [Bryan] Starkey getting out of the 500 [freestyle] and getting right into the 200. We weren't able to enter all the events as far as the boys. This year, we will be able to do that and pick up some more points along the way."
The Mariners placed eighth in the county championships last winter, and Smith hopes to move up at least a couple of spots.
Four solid swimmers return on the girls and boys sides.
Junior Erin Leib was the only medalist last year for the Mariners girls. She was second in the 100 backstroke and third in the 200 individual medley.
Also back are Tiffany Metzger (freestyle), Lara Hadrys (freestyle) and Jolie Lassahn (breaststroke). Freshmen Tammy Pillsbury and Kristen Jortland are two versatile additions with summer league experience. Kris Voit will dive.
Diver Jon Gettle was the only medalist among the boys last year, finishing second.
Also back are Starkey, Brian Wink (backstroke, butterfly) and Mike Henelt (breaststroke). Newcomer Bo Duval should be competitive in the 500 freestyle.
The biggest battle for the Hawks is one of numbers. With just 30 swimmers, the Hawks just don't have the depth to battle with the county's bigger teams.
"We realize that our numbers are not such that we can fill of all our events, so we have to do the best with what we have," said coach Sam Colangelo, who carries 19 girls and 11 boys on the squad.
The Hawks' best bets for medals in the county are in the relays, where they won three bronzes a year ago.
Seniors Carli Blische, Elaine Eierman and Chrissy Pardew are back from the Hawks' third-place 200 freestyle and medley relay teams.
Blische, who holds five North Harford pool records, was the only individual medalist for the Hawks in counties. She finished third in the 100 butterfly and the 100 backstroke.
Newcomers Megan Sharkey and Jackie Seifert are strong in the individual medley and the freestyle events.
The top returning boys are Andy Read, David Noppenberger, Toby Musser and Kevin Gontasz, who combined for a third-place finish in the county in the 200 freestyle relay.
Newcomers Brian Richardson (freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke) and Jason Spacek (breaststroke, freestyle) will add depth.
The Hawks finished sixth in the county last season.
"We just hope to be competitive in all our meets. As far as in the season, I think we can win our share," he said.