Anticipation and hope are two principles that unite the La Cañada High, Flintridge Prep and Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy swim programs as the season begins.
There's quite a bit of excitement at La Cañada as the Spartans have their sights set on a Rio Hondo League title and more.
Last season, the Spartans finished with an impressive 6-1 and 4-1 mark with the lone setback against San Marino in what turned out to be the de facto Rio Hondo League championship match.
This season, the stakes of individual meets won't carry the gravity of league finals, which are set for May 4 at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center.
"This is the first year in a while that the league finals will be scored and that scoring will determine the champion instead of the single meets," La Cañada coach Ernie Lee said. "I don't know if we can beat San Marino in an individual meet, but I'll say yes, we can beat them in a scored finals."
Though La Cañada graduated a talented swimmer in Katrine Madsen, the league 100-yard butterfly champion, the bulk of the squad is back.
Junior Shannon Ring leads the way and is back to defend her league 500 freestyle (5 minutes, 29.7 seconds) title. Sophomore Halley Hemphill also returns a season after capturing the league 50 freestyle (25.61), while junior Maddie Odell looks even stronger in the 100 backstroke.
There's a lot of buzz surrounding freshman Alex Syrkin, younger sister of boys' standout swimmer Daniel, who might be the biggest newcomer in years.
"I'm looking forward to seeing Alex swim," Lee said. "She is going to dominate this area. She's already in a position to challenge San Marino's Zephy Koh for the being the best swimmer in the league."
Progress has continued at Flintridge Prep under coach Ingrid Herskind.
A Rebels' program that struggled to stay competitive in the Prep League only a few years back continued its upward swing by tying for second last season in league with Westridge, while trailing powerhouse Pasadena Poly.
In 2016, the Rebels placed fifth in league.
"We have been so small for so many years and now I have 21 girls out where like three years ago I think I had six girls, so it's exciting," Herskind said. "I have eight new freshmen and I have some veterans.
"The team is really excited about it and we have some girls from water polo who experienced success, so I feel like we're getting some aquatic momentum and we'll be a little more balanced with the guys."
Herskind's biggest returner is junior Emily Alameddine, the Prep League 100-yard freestyle champion (53.51), who finished fifth at the CIF Southern Section Division III 200 freestyle in 1:56.29.
Junior Emily Jacobs returns in the breaststroke and 200 IM races, while Herskind is happy to welcome back sophomore Makena Walklett, who will be joined by her freshman sister Devyn.
"I think with eight freshmen we're going to have a lot of nice surprises," Herskind said. "I don't know exactly who will step up and when, but I think we're going to get some great contributions."
Once stable Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy turned to its third coach in as many seasons in Occidental head coach Steve Webb.
The Tologs opened the season with a 126-26 victory in Mission League action versus Chaminade on Thursday at Loyola.