What a difference a year -- and a few swimmers -- makes.
Free State High's boys enter today's Sunflower League meet as one of the favorites, while Lawrence High will probably be back in the pack.
Last year, the roles were reversed.
The Lions finished third last season behind now-graduated swimmers John Armstrong and Jon Legler, while FSHS was sixth. This year, thanks largely to the emergence of the Firebirds' Alex Brunfeldt, Anthony Portela, Chris Sellon and Chris Wolff, Free State could be the team to beat.
"Our expectations are a lot higher this year," Firebirds' coach Annette McDonald said. "We've set our goals and each of the guys picked something they're shooting for."
When things kick off at 5 p.m. today at the Lawrence Aquatic Center, keep an eye on those four swimmers. They've set eight school records and are a threat to win no matter what event they're swimming.
It's a nice "problem" for McDonald to have.
"What's great about all of this is they can be good in any event," she said. "The hard part is where do you put them?"
The Firebirds should be pushed by Shawnee Mission East and Olathe East -- two schools Free State hasn't faced this winter.
Meanwhile, the Lions are more concerned with individual times -- particularly state-qualifying times.
"We're really hoping that our medley relay team can qualify," LHS coach Alicia Jackson said. "They're about four seconds from qualifying and that's huge for us."
If a state qualifying time comes down to details, Jackson has her team ready. She said the walls at LAC tend to be slick on turns, so the Lions have adjusted their timing slightly, just in case.
"I like to try and focus on those little things," Jackson said. "A lot of times they seem pretty small, but often times they're very important. They can be the difference between first and eighth."
While her swimmers have to worry about flip-turns and times, Lawrence High's divers are hoping for a 1-2 finish against this year.
Junior John Gatti won the league title last year with sophomore Nick Leet second. Leet and Gatti have been neck-and-neck this season, which means it could come down to the last dive.
"That's something we're anxious to see," Jackson said.
The diving competition will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, and the swimming finals are scheduled for 1 p.m. Preliminaries are scheduled to start at 5 p.m. tonight and should last two or three hours.