PALATINE HILL -- The Lewis & Clark Pioneers lost a total of seven swimmers from the 2017-18 team. As a result, the team will bring back numerous experienced and record-holding competitors when the team takes to the pool in the season openers this weekend.
Chris Fantz enters his 12th season as head coach and brings back both of his assistant coaches, Sarit Gluz and Bill Patterson, for the fifth straight year. During the 2017-18 season, the Pioneers reset 13 school records.
There are four senior returners for the Pioneers this season, including record holders Kassie Kometani and Eleanor Gerrior. The pair were both part of the 2016-17 record-setting relay teams in the 200 Medley and 400 Freestyle races. Kometani, an All-Northwest Conference First-Team selection last year, is one of the team's leaders who should be great once again in the freestyle and butterfly. Gerrior has been an impact swimmer in the sprint freestyle and butterfly races who should have an exciting senior season. Claire Megna competes in a high volume of distance races and was her fastest toward the end of 2017 last season when she set her best marks of the season in the 500, 1,000 and 1,650 Freestyle. Anna DePaepe competed in nine events as a junior and will return with the same level of versatility for the Pios as a senior. Capable of swimming about anything, DePaepe will be entered in distance and individual medley races.
Sam Duran and Emily Skaggs make up the junior class until Claire Greene returns from overseas study this spring. Duran set five individual records and is part of nine school records overall after her first two seasons. The All-NWC First-Team pick will look to continue her success into her first upperclassmen season. Skaggs continues to improve her distance freestyle while returning with an excellent sprint resume. At last year's NWC Championships, Skaggs set three of her season-best times. Greene was a seventh-place finisher in the 400 individual medley at last year's conference meet.
Lewis & Clark features a large set of underclassmen groups including five sophomores. Sabrina Murray was an All-NWC selection as a freshman after a fifth-place finish in the 1,650 Freestyle at the conference meet. Off an excellent offseason of training, Murray is likely to pick up where she left off in her distance races. Erin Khong was a hugely-versatile component of the team in her first season and will swim in three different categories this year with a concentration on breaststroke. She raced to her best time in the 200 Individual Medley at last year's NWC Championships. Margot Chirayath should be a big contributor in the sprint butterfly this season after setting both of her best freshman times at the conference meet last season. Julia Brandt is continuing to train in the backstroke and sprint freestyle races, while possibly dabbling in the butterfly. Brandt set three season-best times at the NWC Championships last year. Grace Anderson is a distance freestyle racer who posted three of her best freshman times at the NWC meet.
The Pioneers welcome six newcomers to the team. Alys Chang is from Sunnyvale, Calif. and is capable of swimming a wide variety of events. Chang chose Lewis & Clark, in part, because of Portland and the coaching staff. Izzy Couch is a strong distance freestyler who will likely lean toward the mid-distance and distance races. From Woodside, Calif., the former all-league selection called Lewis & Clark "the perfect school." KK Fiddler joins the Pioneers from Billings, Mont. and brings a lot of versatility to the team. As a result, she'll likely race IM, backstroke and some relays. Caroline Karson is a pure sprinter who was team captain and a school-record holder in Chevy Chase, Md. Karson will compete in freestyle, butterfly and breaststroke. Anna Kates is a former two-time captain and varsity racer from Truckee, Calif. who will focus primarily on sprint freestyle and butterfly this season. Kates chose Lewis & Clark because of "academics, culture and location." Ciara Orness was a high school MVP and school-record holder in Thousand Oaks, Calif. who picked Lewis & Clark because "of the beautiful location, close-knit team, small class size and overall positive feeling on campus." She'll focus on breaststroke and IM.
Three seniors return for the Pioneers including three-time All-Northwest Conference selection August Bergh. A team leader, Bergh placed among the NWC's top eight in the 200, 500 and 1,650 Freestyle at last year's NWC Championships. Nathan Beirne is a great presence on the pool deck and has a focus on sprint freestyle and backstroke. The majority of his fastest times came as a sophomore. Sam Bundenthal is a backstroke and mid-distance freestyle racer who continues to train hard into his final season. Bundenthal had four of his best times last season at the December Logger Invitational.
Lewis & Clark features a five-person junior class. The Pioneers lost graduated senior and All-NWC First-Team selection Miles French and will look to junior William Witmer to help make up some of French's contribution. Witmer is a sprint racer in the breaststroke and freestyle who set season bests in two races at the NWC Championships. Matt Jackson will fill the team's needs in the individual medley plus is expected to have big contributions in the breaststroke and butterfly. Jackson set three best times for the season at the conference championships in 2017-18. Sam Raphael is a freestyler who will also transition into the butterfly races this season. He set his all-time bests in the 50 and 100 Freestyles as a sophomore. Matthew Bress races the challenging distance and butterfly races and should have an exciting season. As a sophomore, Bress was at his best in the conference meet in three different races. Ben Virgin set three all-time bests at the NWC Championships a year ago and will continue racing the distance events as a junior.
The sophomores include All-NWC returners Andrew Butcher and Kyle Monteleone. Butcher finished among the conference's top eight in three separate events as a freshman and will return for more sprint freestyle races this year. Monteleone was fourth in the 100 Butterfly at the NWC Championships, narrowly missing All-NWC First-Team honors, while placing in scoring position over three events. An incredibly versatile swimmer, Monteleone will also work on his backstroke, butterfly and mid-distance this year. Ian Shepel is taking strides in his backstroke and sprint freestyle races and could see some individual medley entries this year. Shepel achieved three season bests at last year's NWC final. Zach Lebovic is a butterfly and sprint freestyle racer who set his best marks in the 50 and 100 Freestyle at last year's conference meet.
Two freshmen were added to the team this season. JP Greener is from Tucson, Ariz. where he was part of a state championship team. The former team captain and scholar-athlete will contribute in as many as three event categories this year. From Colorado Springs, Colo., Alex Spiecker was a team captain and state qualifier who will be primarily focused on mid-distance, but is capable in a variety of strokes.
Both teams had their highest win totals in duals last year since the 2009-10 or 2010-11 seasons.
Lewis & Clark begins the season with dual races on Friday and Saturday in the Tacoma, Wash. area. The Pios will face Puget Sound first before going against Pacific Lutheran the next day.
Home competition begins with the brand-new George Fox program on Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. before an afternoon meet against Pacific on Nov. 17. The first half of the calendar ends with the Logger Invite in Tacoma Nov. 30-Dec. 2.
After a road dual at Linfield, the Pios will have three straight home meets in January to end the regular season. The Northwest Conference Championships are in Federal Way, Wash. and have been expanded to four days starting Feb. 7 with the addition of George Fox. For the second consecutive year, the Pios will end the year with the Puget Sound Finale on Feb. 16.