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With last season's loss of only five seniors to graduation, this winter's Intercity high school boys swimming scene should look familiar - only faster.

And in the case of University of Iowa recruit Brian Farris of Normal Community, it could be much faster.

Farris, a state title contender, is among the Intercity's nine returning state qualifiers. He led the 2004 Ironmen to 12th in the state, first in the sectional, first in the Intercity and third in the Big 12 Conference.

The three-time state qualifier placed fourth in both the state 200- and 500-yard freestyle events, lowering the Pantagraph-area record in the former to 1 minute, 42.91 seconds.

His 500 freestyle school record of 4:38.12 ranks second in Pantagraph-area history.

Following are a glance at this year's Intercity teams.

Normal Community

"We are looking very good," said Vicki Kobel, in her second season as head coach of a 25-man squad boasting 13 lettermen. "We have a lot of returning varsity swimmers. They are definitely looking toward the state meet.

"We expect a big time drop from Brian in the 500. We're looking for him in the 4:30 to 4:35 range."

Farris is the state's No. 1 returnee in the 500 freestyle and the No. 3 returnee in the 200 freestyle.

Among four other NCHS state meet veterans are Tyler Pinter (20th in the 50 freestyle and 23rd in the 100 freestyle) and Samarth Bhaskar (27th in the 100 butterfly).

Pinter led the area a year ago in the 50 freestyle at 21.83, the fifth-best time in area history. Kobel believes he will be stronger after attending a Texas swimming camp last summer and running cross country this fall.

Bhaskar's school record butterfly mark of 53.55 ranks 10th in area history.

Two-time Intercity champion Bret Starkey, who led the Pantagraph area last season in the 100 breaststroke at 1:03.89, was part of the 20th-place state 200 medley relay with Farris, Bhaskar and Pinter.

Joining the same trio to place 25th in the state 400 freestyle relay was Paul Ostrosky, who ranked third in the area in the 200 individual medley at 2:08.37.

Starkey, who trained more in the off-season than usual, will try for the breaststroke state qualifying standard of 1:02.99.

"He should be able to make it this year," said Kobel, who has another top breaststroker in Mike Gibson (1:06.63).

Handling the diving chores will be Bert Pedrigi and Tim Watson, who placed second and third, respectively, in the Intercity last year. Their new diving coach is Lori Geiselman.

Bloomington

A shoulder injury nearly wiped out Chase Fillingham's junior season. His healthy return could make Bob Loy's 27th season as coach exciting.

"His shoulder seems to be doing well," Loy said. "Now it's just a matter of him getting in shape."

Despite the training he lost to injury, Fillingham placed 16th in the state 100 freestyle and 26th in the 50 freestyle and was part of the 20th-place 200 freestyle relay with Justin Wolfe, Tariq Mohammed and Brian Yount, all of whom return.

"We're looking to qualify for state in anywhere from six to nine events," said Loy, whose 27-man roster includes 14 lettermen back from a third-place sectional effort.

Fillingham, a three-time state qualifier, was eighth in the 2004 state 100 backstroke and ninth in the 200 individual medley, in which his school record of 1:55.84 ranks third in area history.

Loy wants Fillingham to do more than just reach the state finals in the backstroke and IM.

"Our goal is definitely top six," Loy said.

Fillingham's backstroke best of 53.94 is tantalizingly close to the school record of 53.70.

Wolfe, a sophomore, placed 38th in last year's state 100 butterfly and posted a season best of 53.64.

"He (Wolfe) came in in tremendous shape," Loy said.

Yount is a potential state qualifier in the 100 freestyle (49.74), 200 freestyle (1:50.43) or 500 freestyle (5:10.24).

"He's a much stronger swimmer this year," said Loy, who is also looking for points from Jared Bradd, Bryan Peden and Geoff Clayton.

Loy expects Champaign Central to win a fourth consecutive Big 12 title with Champaign Centennial second.

University High

Michelle Meyer's 13th-year as coach will feature a 19-man squad with 10 lettermen back from a seventh-place sectional team. Eleven Pioneers trained in the off-season.

"They are in swimming shape," Meyer said. "I'm excited about that."

U High, which had no seniors last year, has nine this season, including Bryan Benson, who ranked fifth in the area in the 100 backstroke at 58.64.

"He's looking good," Meyer said. "He's a good all-around swimmer."

The Pioneers' best swimmer may be freshman Josh Davis, who has gone sub-59 in the 100 butterfly and sub-5:08 in the 500 freestyle.

"He wants to qualify for state in the individual medley," Meyer said.

Back from last year's top U High relays are Chris Modos, Eric Sinn, Michael Fritz and Nick Houska.

"Eric always surprises me in a positive way," said Meyer, whose team has no divers. "He wants to go to state in the fly.

"We're looking to develop the team and develop a core for next year. It will be a good year, I think. They are all good workers and positive about being here."

Normal West

Second-year Coach Dan Lloyd, who will step down after this season to become a University of Michigan assistant, has 19 men out, two more than last year.

Among the 10 lettermen is sophomore diver Justin Ruszkowski, whose best six-dive score of 197.50 ranked second in the area last season.

"The sky is the limit for this guy," Lloyd said. "He went to a diving camp this summer in Indiana. I think he's definitely got his sights set on state. I don't think there's any reason he shouldn't be at state this year."

Another state hopeful is Cory Thomas, the area's No. 3 man in the 500 freestyle last year at 5:02.25.

"This kid is a workhorse just like his sisters (Devon and Lisa)," Lloyd said.

The Wildcats' top returning sprinter is Aaron Pogue, who clocked 23.35 to rank fifth in the area in the 50 freestyle last year.

Teammate John Fahrenkrug ranked fifth in the area in the 100 freestyle at 51.61. He was a relay stalwart along with Trevor Mitchell and Dietrich May.

Lloyd has high hopes for freshman Daniel Kohlhase.

"He has been a year-around swimmer," Lloyd said.

See Scoreboard for rostersand schedules.

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