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State swimming finals, 2/24/18

Lincoln Pius X's Katie Stonehocker (left) gets set in her blocks to compete in the 200-yard freestyle final at the state swimming meet in February at the Devaney Sports Center.

State champs look to rebuild or reload

The Creighton Prep boys have won 12 straight state championships, while Lincoln Southwest has won three straight, and four of five, on the girls side. Both face the challenges of getting rosters set to make another run. The Southwest girls must replace five-time individual state champ Alana Palmer and Shelby Mullendore. Seniors Berkeley Livingston, a Nebraska recruit, and Anna Heinrich will lead the way after each won state gold last season. The Junior Jays must replace Colin LaFave and Conner Funke, but the talent pool remains deep at Prep.

A new wave of swimmers, divers

Of last season's nine individual boys state champions, only two are returners — Grand Island sophomore Jonathan Novinski (500-yard freestyle) and Lincoln Pius X junior Braden Kowalski (diving). Who will join those two in carrying the torch on the boys side? Lincoln Northeast's Caden Feit, Norfolk's Caleb Harthoorn, Creighton Prep's Daniel Perry and Rush Clark, Millard South's Hunter Smithson, Lincoln East's Alex Petty, Millard West's Mateo Miceli and Papio's Luke Barr are among those looking to swim in a bigger spotlight.

Can Lincoln girls keep impressive run going?

Thirty-two individual state swimming champions have been crowned on the girls side since the 2015 state meet. Twenty-seven have come from Lincoln, many of them from Lincoln Southwest. There are three returning state champions from Lincoln. Livingston won the 500 freestyle gold, and Heinrich took gold in 50 freestyle. Lincoln Pius X's Katie Stonehocker placed first in the 100 breaststroke, swimming one of the fastest times (1:02.43) in state history.

HAC meet will have new look, site

The Heartland Athletic Conference added Lincoln Pius X, Kearney and Norfolk, and those schools are sure to boost the depth and competitiveness of the HAC meet. The Pius X girls are coming off a third-place finish at last season's state meet. The Norfolk boys have finished second and fifth the past two seasons. This season's HAC swimming meet will also move to Fremont's Dillon Family Aquatic Center, which can hold up to 421 swimmers and has seating for 386 spectators.

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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