HAC Swimming Finals, 2.11.17

Lincoln Southwest's Alana Palmer competes in the 200-yard individual medley during the Heartland Athletic Conference swimming finals on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, at Lincoln Southeast High School. MATT RYERSON, Journal Star

MATT RYERSON, Journal Star

Hawks aim for 3 straight

Typically, a team that graduates 141 points from state enters the following season in rebuild mode. But not the Lincoln Southwest girls. Yes, the two-time defending state champion Silver Hawks must replace Olivia Calegan, Dannie Dilsaver (she missed her senior year), Clara Walstad and Sydney Schneider. But the roster remains one of the best in the state. It's led by Wisconsin recruit Alana Palmer, a two-time 200 freestyle champion. Shelby Mullendore and Kaitlyn Witt are Division I recruits, and juniors Berkeley Livingston and Anna Heinrich will provide point boosts, just like they did as sophomores.

A dandy dozen?

On the boys side, everyone will be chasing 11-time defending state champion Creighton Prep. The Juniors Jays' roster is stacked again. Senior Colin LaFave won a state butterfly title last year, and seniors Nick Soltys and Conner Funke and sophomore Rush Clark are expected to help lead the way. The Juniors Jays have scored more than 400 points at state five straight times. It could be six in February.

Thunderbird is back

Feb. 24 at the Devaney Sports Center was a special day for Bellevue West. Jessica Warak won a state diving title on the girls side and Cole Armagost made it a Thunderbird sweep with a win on the boys side. Armagost graduated, but Warak, a Nebraska recruit, is aiming to become the first three-time girls state diving champion since Lincoln Southeast's Lilly Hinrichs (2009-11). Five of the top six finishers from last season's boys state meet are back, so that field is wide-open.

New faces will be crowned champs

Last year's boys state meet was dominated by seniors. There were nine individual championship races, including diving, and eight of those were won by seniors. Of the nine second-place finishes, seven were by seniors. Standouts such as Matthew Novinski of Grand Island and Cameron Carney of Norfolk are among those swimming in college now, and the pool is open for a different wave of swimmers to emerge. LaFave, Funke and Soltys are among those set to step into a bigger spotlight. Also keep your eyes on Norfolk's Caleb Harthoorn, Omaha Westside's Jon Gouger, Lincoln Northeast's Chase Larson and Lincoln East's Alex Petty.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.

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Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

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