Both of Jackson's swimming teams hope to ride waves of experience to Federal League crowns and postseason success this season.
Roster depth has both teams optimistic about their chances of being Federal League contenders. The girls team returns 15 letterwinners from last year's Federal League championship team, while the boys return 14 letterwinners.
"I feel that this is the strongest team from top to bottom that we have fielded since I began coaching at Jackson," head coach Matt Ziders said. "The girls' strongest events are the sprint freestyle and the backstroke. Diving will also be a strength this year for both teams."
All-American honorees senior Biz Graeff and sophomore Katelyn Daiger return in the sprint and relay events. Graeff, a team captain, placed sixth in the 50 freestyle and fourth in the 200 freestyle at the Division I state meet last season and is aiming for a repeat trip to Canton in her senior season.
Along with sophomore All-Ohio selection Victoria Addis, Graeff and Daiger have spent the past few months competing individually and preparing for a run at another league crown.
"All three have put a lot of work into the offseason and will play a large role in helping us to achieve our team goals," Ziders said. "All of these girls will play a vital role in our success as a team this season."
The boys team came up short of a league crown last season, but after a win at the McKinley Relays to begin the year, the Polar Bears have their sights set on a championship of their own in 2014.
"The boys will be very strong in the sprint freestyle and distance events," Ziders said. "We have three Federal League meets before Christmas with Perry, GlenOak and McKinley and all of these teams will have swimmers that will provide great races for us. We will certainly look to get off to a fast start and to ride that momentum throughout the rest of our season."
Captains Evan Dillon, Dylan Gulli, Michael Mueller, Matt Pech and diver Jeff Turner will lead the boys in their pursuit of their first league title since 1994.
Relays and invitational meets anchor the first few weeks of the schedule and meets such as the Cleveland State Viking Invitational (Dec. 21) and Northeast Classic (Jan. 11) will serve as a crucible for Jackson ahead of its league schedule.
With their three biggest dual meets all coming within an eight-day span in mid-January, Ziders knows both of his teams will need to be at their best in the coming weeks. Even more importantly, they must be at their peak when February rolls around and championship dreams are on the line.