There will be plenty of new faces atop the medals platform in late February at the state high school swimming and diving championships.
Every boys champion except one at state in 2018 was a senior, while four girls are back to defend titles they won at last year’s meet at the Devaney Center in Lincoln.
Grand Island sophomore Jonathan Novinski is the defending champion in the 500-yard freestyle and will see how the season unfolds before picking a second individual event to swim at state.
When asked to list what events each team member will compete in this winter, Islanders coach Brian Jensen typed “all” next to Novinski’s name. Novinski’s prelims time of 4:38.63 at state put him at No. 10 on The World-Herald’s all-time chart in the 500.
Two of the girls returning champions are seniors at Lincoln Southwest. Anna Heinrich won the 50 freestyle and Berkeley Livingston the 500 free. They will be the leaders of the Southwest squad that has won the last two girls team state titles. Livingston is No. 3 all-time in the 500 at 4:55.37.
Omaha Marian is thought to be the favorite to unseat Southwest in 2019, and the Crusaders will be led by returning 100 backstroke champion Isabella Pantano, who is No. 5 on the all-time Top 10 in that event with a 56.45. Omaha Burke senior Elizabeth Richardson is No. 4 all-time at 56.35.
The other returning state champ is Lincoln Pius X junior Katie Stonehocker, who won the 100 breaststroke in 1:02.43. That puts her No. 3 all-time in that event, behind former Lincoln Southwest stars Olivia Calegan and Dannie Dilsaver.
With two seasons to bring her time down, Stonehocker will be looking to move past Calegan and Dilsaver, who are now sophomores at North Carolina State and California, respectively.
Omaha Creighton Prep looks to have the depth and top-shelf swimmers to again finish the season as boys state champion. The Junior Jays figure to get a push once again from the likes of Omaha Westside, Millard West and Papillion-La Vista/Papillion-La Vista South.
If the Junior Jays win it all in February, it would be 13 consecutive and 21 overall. Only Westside has won more state team titles than Prep with 23, including a tie in 1966 and two as a co-op with Elkhorn in 2004 and 2005.
The Warriors were the last team to win a state championship before Prep’s current streak, edging Lincoln East in 2006.
Prep coach Tom Beck is calling this season the Junior Jays’ biggest rebuilding challenge of the past 12 years after the graduation of a large and strong senior class. An experienced group of four seniors and three juniors who scored at state have taken the leadership reins.
Papio will be led by Mark Cavanaugh and Luke Barr, both of whom posted Junior Nationals-qualifying marks. They got off to a fast start in Thursday’s dual with Lincoln Southeast: Barr won the 50 freestyle in 21.83 and Cavanaugh touched first in the 100 free in 48.24.
The first big tests of the season come Saturday at the Burke Invitational, followed by Ralston’s Larry Hill Ram Relays next weekend.
Lincoln Northeast coach Kyle Hunt, Millard North coach Andy Cunningham and Norfolk coach David Nelson again are providing ratings throughout the season. This isn’t a job this troika takes lightly; several emails went back and forth to get the preseason list prepared.
Here is the preseason Top 10 for the boys and girls:
Boys: 1, Omaha Creighton Prep. 2, Omaha Westside. 3, Millard West. 4, Papillion-La Vista/Papillion-La Vista South. 5, Lincoln East. 6, Elkhorn/Elkhorn South. 7, Norfolk. 8, Lincoln Northeast. 9, Millard South. 10, Lincoln Southwest.
Girls: 1, Omaha Marian. 2, Lincoln Southwest. 3, Lincoln East. 4, Elkhorn/Elkhorn South. 5, Omaha Westside. 6, Lincoln Pius X. 7, Millard North. 8, Norfolk. 9, Millard West. 10, Hastings.
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July 1: Air Force's Nic Ready hit a total of 55 home runs, including 21 in the final round, to edge Clemson's Logan Davidson in the College Home Run Derby.
June 28: Oregon State celebrates beating Arkansas 5-0 in Game 3 of the CWS championship series. The Beavers were down to their last out in Game 2 before a fielding blunder by the Razorbacks gave Oregon State a second life, which it took advantage of en route to the program's third CWS title.
June 18: John Olson, and Mary Olson, of Joslyn, Missouri, take cover under ponchos during a rain delay at the College World Series. Weather provided a huge problem in the 2018 CWS.
June 15: Cam'ron Jones checks out Omaha.com, or perhaps Snapchat, during the Huskers' Friday Night Lights camp.
June 9: Terence "Bud" Crawford celebrates his knockout victory over Jeff Horn to win the WBO welterweight title.
May 19: Fremont's Lucas Arps celebrates after winning the Class A 400-meter dash.
May 19: Lincoln Lutheran's Josie Puelz celebrates after clearing 12-2 in the Class C girls pole vault final.
May 17: Omaha Roncalli's Thomas Alitz cheers after scoring the winning run in the Class B state championship on a hit by Logan McGill with two outs in the seventh inning.
May 17: Omaha Creighton Prep's Eric Allbery, right, jumps on the dogpile as the Junior Jays celebrate their Class A state baseball title.
May 16: South Sioux City celebrates after defeating Elkhorn South in the Class B state soccer championship.
May 16: Kearney's Christian Dakan hoists the Class A state soccer trophy alongside his teammates.
May 14: Millard North celebrates its Class A state championship win against Omaha Marian by kissing the trophy.
May 14: Elkhorn celebrates its Class B championship win against Omaha Skutt.
May 9: Creighton's Will Robertson celebrates with Jack Strunc, left, after homering the fifth inning. The Jays beat UNO 10-6.
May 6: The Omaha Storm Chasers play below the newly dedicated Steve Pivovar Press Box at Werner Park.
April 21: Nebraska coach Scott Frost leads the Huskers during the Tunnel Walk on Saturday.
April 19: Awardee Dante Pettis and former Nebraska football player Johnny Rodgers, right, pictured during the Jet Award dinner.
April 19: Former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne attends the Jet Award dinner.
April 18: UNO's Malik Moore pitches against Nebraska. The Mavericks knocked off the Huskers for the first time since 1997.
April 11: Creighton's Will Robertson, left, and Thomas Luevano celebrate scoring on a triple by Jack Strunc.
April 11: Elkhorn South's Mo Gohr gains control of the ball in the Metro Conference tournament.
April 3: Scott Frost directs Husker football practice.
March 31: The boy campers pose for a photo at the Athletes' Training Center Futures Camp at Iowa West Field House.
March 27: Creighton defeats Nebraska 3-1 in the first matchup of the year.
March 25: Kansas' Malik Newman drives to the basket, drawing a blocking foul on Duke's Wendell Carter. The Jayhawks went on to defeat the Blue Devils in Omaha and advance to the Final Four.
March 17: Arizona State defeats Nebraska in the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
March 17: Nebraska Wesleyan celebrates winning the NCAA Division III men's basketball championship.
March 17: Creighton defeats Iowa in the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
March 17: Creighton's bench cheers as Michael Emodi hits a walk-off homer off Wichita State pitcher Chandler Sanburn in the Jays' home opener.
March 12: The Creighton women's basketball team celebrates making the NCAA tournament.
March 10: Wahoo celebrates winning the Class C-1 boys basketball title.
March 10: Nebraska City Lourdes' Quinten Vasa, center, holds up the trophy with his team.
March 9: Glenwood celebrates after winning its first boys basktball state title in school history.
March 3: Scotus' Maggie Feehan celebrates after winning the Class C-1 title.
March 3: Superior celebrates a Class C-2 championship win over Ravenna.
Feb. 25: Nebraska's Duby Okeke enters Pinnacle Bank Arena with his family at his side on senior night. The Huskers went on to defeat Penn State.
Nebraska's Duby Okeke enters Pinnacle Bank Arena with his family at his side on senior night.
Feb. 24: Creighton's Marcus Foster, left, and Davion Mintz celebrate Creighton's 89-83 overtime victory over Villanova.
Feb. 24: Omaha Creighton Prep's Colin LaFave competes in the 100 fly at the state swimming meet.
Feb. 24: Lincoln Southwest's Anna Heinrich, left, and Josie Ford celebrate their first and second-place finishes in the 50 free at the state swimming meet.
Feb. 17: Kearney’s Phillip Moomey is in the top 20 of his weight class in two national polls. Only a handful of underclassmen are ranked ahead of him.
Feb. 17: Omaha Burke's Jakason Burks does a backflip after defeating Millard South's Caleb Coyle during the 106-pound Class A final at the state wrestling championships.
Jan. 28: Omaha Lancers coach and General Manager David Wilkie talks with players during first-period action.
Jan. 26: UNO's Luke Nogard skates past the referee.
Jan. 16: Nebraska's Nicea Eliely gets excited during pregame introductions as the Huskers went on to beat Iowa.
Nebraska's James Palmer celebrates a home victory over Illinois with Isaiah Roby.
Jan. 9: Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, left, talks with former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne during the Outland Trophy banquet.
Jan. 4: Omaha Burke's Shereef Mitchell brings the ball up court in the Metro holiday tournament.
Jan. 1: In his final game with Central Florida, now-Nebraska coach Scott Frost raises the Peach Bowl title after defeating Auburn.