Portland-area swimmers and divers have long turned heads on the state level and that figures to be the case again in 2009-10.

The Cheverus boys were Class A runners-up a year ago. This season, the Stags should be in the hunt again. Sophomore Cal Rohde was runner-up in the 200 and the 500 freestyle last winter. Senior Cameron Lindsley was fourth in the 50 free and sixth in the 100 free in 2008-09. Senior Mark Dumond could be in the hunt for the top spot in the breaststroke. Sophomore Lukas Temple is a top sprinter. Freshman Trebor Lawton joins the fun and could become a premier swimmer in several different disciplines.

The girls finished eighth at Southwesterns and were 15th at the state meet last winter. This time around, they look to improve. Senior Kayla Binford (freestyle), senior Janna Libby (sprint freestyle) and senior Miriam Nielsen (freestyle) all have experience. Junior Katherine Moreshead will swim everything from the breaststroke to the individual medley to the butterfly to distance freestyle. New sophomore Maria Cianchette (the team’s top diver) and freshmen Clara Boscoe (sprint freestyle), Nichole Chambers (everything), Tessa Lindsley (sprint freestyle and breaststroke) and Samantha Savaun (everything) are stars in the making. The Stags should be able to compete with all comers in the regular year and in February.

“We have some nice additions to both teams to give us depth,” said Stags coach Kevin Haley, entering his 21st year. “We are very young, but experienced. We’re looking to qualify as many kids as possible for the state championships. Cheverus will have a very strong boys’ and girls’ team and will be competitive again this year.”

Deering has a pair of new coaches this season, including one well known to the Rams’ program.

The girls’ team is now headed up by Angie Cressey, who swam at Deering from 1996 to 1999, was a member of the Portland Porpoise swim club, then went on to compete at Eastern Michigan. She inherits two returning scorers from last winter: seniors Kristen Gradnonico (third in the 50 free and sixth in the breaststroke) and Jami LeRoy (sixth in the 200 free and eighth in the 100 free). Deering (which was sixth at Southwesterns and eighth in Class A a year ago) looks to be a factor.

“I hope that through teamwork and hard work, the girls will meet their goals,” Cressey said. “I am already impressed with the maturity and ambition the girls demonstrate at practice.”

The Rams boys’ squad welcomes Geoff Hadam as coach. Hadam was a standout at Cape Elizabeth in the 1990s. He qualified for the Junior Nationals in the 100- and 200-backstroke before an injured shoulder curtailed his ability to swim in college. He has some holes to fill (most notably replacing state champion E.J. Googins), but some good athletes are in place. Top returners are seniors Brian McRae (diving), Noah Major (butterfly) and Zach Sawyer (backstroke). Junior Erik Thomas (freestyle) and sophomore Dejan Varagic (IM) look to make a bigger splash. Senior David Wells and freshman Dylan Farber are also diving threats. The Rams (second at Southwesterns and fourth in Class A a year ago) should improve steadily between now and February and will again turn some heads at the championship meets.

“What I’m hoping for is that the swimmers can make the most of this year and see what kind of payoff the next two months of training can bring them,” said Hadam.

McAuley won the 2008 Class B state championship in surprising fashion, then wound up third beyond powerhouses Falmouth and Greely a year ago.

After losing the standout Desrosiers sisters, this year’s team doesn’t have the depth to compete with Falmouth and Greely, but should comport itself very well again. The Lions’ top returners are senior Emily Gajewski (breaststroke), Senior Lib Rand (fly) and junior Aoife Ryle (distance freestyle). Mix in freshmen Taylor Church (breaststroke), Libby Gajewski (distance freestyle) and Audrey Thames (breaststroke and 50 free) and you can see why McAuley has reason for optimism. The Lions should steady improve during the regular season and be at top form for the Southwesterns and states.

“I’m expecting a strong season,” said fifth-year coach John Smith. “We have a good group of new high school swimmers who will have a tough season, but in the end we’ll prove to be a contender for the top three spot in states.”

The Bulldogs of Portland continue to make strides. A year ago, the Bulldogs boys’ squad was an impressive fourth at Southwesterns and placed 19th at the state meet. The girls didn’t score at states and were 13th at Southwesterns.

This winter, Portland’s boys’ team is led by sophomore David Bliss, who was ninth in the breaststroke a year ago at states. He’ll compete in several different disciplines. Seniors Ian Worden (sprint freestyle) and Max Dismore (diving) are also capable of scoring points. The girls are led by sophomore Mary Badger, who qualified for states a year ago and specializes in the breaststroke and sprint freestyle. Freshman Leanne Reichert could step right in and make an impact as well. Several new girls will also get a chance to make their presence felt.

“The boys’ team is about the same size as last year, so we hope to compete as well as or better than last year,” said fourth-year coach Martha White. “We have greater depth than in previous years. The girls’ team is growing. That will make a nice difference. As long as we’re all doing our best, we’ll continue to improve and we can take pride in our accomplishments.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]