Lawrence High girls swimming coach Kent McDonald isn't kidding when he says his team will be a force to be reckoned with at the state meet this year.
His swimmers and divers already have done plenty to back up that claim.
After just one meet this season, diver Mallory West, Jessica Boyer, Sarah Schwartz and Elle Weber all have qualified for state. Boyer and Schwartz did it in the 100-meter butterfly, and Weber accomplished the feat in the 200 individual medley and the 100- meter breaststroke.
Boyer, Schwartz, Weber and Rachel Buchner also qualified in the 200 medley relay.
And, by the way, the Lions won that meet, over a field that included defending state champion Wichita Trinity High.
So McDonald has good reason to set his sights high.
"The best thing is we've got a number of good swimmers," McDonald said. "I can put one or two really fast swimmers in each event. Last year, I struggled to find swimmers that could do well in each event. So there are a lot of possibilities."
McDonald, in his second year with the LHS girls, said he was pleased with the 43 swimmers out for the team this season, up from 35 a year ago. That increase comes in large part from having several freshmen join from the club swimming ranks.
Despite the youth on the team, LHS will look to its veterans for leadership. West, a senior, will be captain of the divers. She placed at state last year and still holds the school record from her freshman campaign.
Paula Kyriakos and Melissa Naff will be captains of the swim team. Erina Houk, a distance freestyler, also will be counted on this season.
"They're pretty well setting the tone for the swimmers," McDonald said.
McDonald's goal for the Lions is to qualify for state in all three relays (200 medley, 200 free and 400 free) and to get eight individuals there, as well.
At Free State High, expectations are much the same where Kent's wife, Annette McDonald, leads the Firebirds in her second season with the girls.
While having nearly half as many athletes out for the team as LHS - 21 swimmers and two divers - Free State still has a number of swimmers back who fared well a season ago.
One of those swimmers is sophomore Morgan Flannigan, who placed second at state a year ago in the 500 free. She also medaled at state in the 200 free and the 200 free relay, earning all-state and all-league honors.
Adrianne Black also returns as a sophomore after making state last season in the 500 free.
Captains this year are Brittanie Williams for diving and Katie Sloan and Amanda Bari for swimming.
Sloan medaled at state in the 100 fly, the 200 medley and the 200 free. She and Flannigan were part of a team last season that broke the school record in the 200 medley relay.
In Free State's first meet this season, the Firebirds finished fourth out of nine teams, behind Lawrence's first-place showing. That hasn't deterred Annette McDonald, though, who figures her team will be a player at state.