Five things to watch

1 Can Notre Dame senior Colton Paulson pull a double at this year's state meet and help Irish break through for another team trophy?

The two-time Journal Star Boys Swimmer of the Year won the 500 freestyle state title  and was second at state in the 200 free as a sophomore in 2016. Last season, he reversed the finishes, winning the 200 free state title, and finishing second in the 500 free to longtime friend and rival Sam Iida, who was a senior. Colton has helped the Irish to  second, fourth and sixth, respectively, at the state meet in the past three seasons.

2 The Dunlap Co-op’s dominance in the Mid-Illini Invite.

The Eagles have won four straight Mid-Illini titles, but swimmers from the Metamora Co-op and the Pekin Co-op made some strides in closing the gap last season. The Eagles return state qualifiers Zach Boley, Zach Glover and Ben Owens, but are down in numbers this year. Dunlap coach Jim Bucher is counting on his divers to be strong this season. Metamora's Justin Alderson won two M-I titles last year as a freshman. and Pekin's Adam Peterson was the 100 free champ, and the Dragons are off to a strong start this year.

3 Notre Dame’s run in the Big 12 Conference.

The Irish have won three straight Big 12 titles, behind strong performances by Colton Paulson both in individual events and in the relays. Paulson had a record-setting day last year, when Notre Dame beat out Richwoods for the team title. Irish juniors Matthew Terrian and John Couri, who both qualified for state in four events last year, also return.  Junior Daniel Matlock returns for the Knights after finishing 13th at state last year in both the 200 IM and the 100 butterfly. Senior Jack Rhode is also off to a fast start for the Knights, with four first-place finishes in a dual meet against Bloomington.

4 Newcomers who might make an immediate impact.

There are a few talented underclassmen who will strengthen a couple of area teams this season. Richwoods coach Lynn Thompson is expecting big things from year-round  freshmen swimmers Zack Dollman and Hayden Moore. Dollman was involved in four wins for the Knights in a dual-meet win over Bloomington. Pekin Co-op freshman Alex Kula had a hand in three wins for the Dragons against Galesburg and in a dual meet win against Dunlap. And freshmen Jacob Nemec and Will Jane could earn some points for the Washington Co-op.

5 New coach for the Pekin Co-op

Christine Dunn takes over for Mitch Richards at the Pekin Co-op, and inherits a team that features seniors Adam Peterson, who qualified for state in both the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke last season, and Jack Marlatt. It's the first year to coach in high school for Dunn, whose team has won its first two dual meets of the season, including one over Dunlap.

10 swimmers to watch

Colton Paulson, Notre Dame, sr. — Won 500 freestyle as a sophomore and the 200 freestyle as a junior at the state meet; two-time Journal Star SoY.

Daniel Matlock, Richwoods, jr. —  Area leader in both the 100 fly and 200 IM,and just missed making finals in both events last year at state with 13th-place finishes.

Justin Alderson, Metamora Co-op, soph. — Qualified for state in both the 200 IM and the 100 breast as a freshman.

Matthew Terrian, Notre Dame, sr. — Qualified for state last season in the 200 IM and the 100 back (area leader), and on two relay teams.

Adam Peterson, Pekin Co-op, sr. — Area leader in 100 breaststroke last season, and state qualifier in both the 50 free and 100 breast.

Zach Boley, Dunlap Co-op, jr. — Sectional champ in both the 100 butterfly and 200 IM.

Zach Glover, Dunlap Co-op, jr. — Won sectional title in the 500 freestyle at East Moline and placed 34th at state. 

John Couri, Notre Dame, sr. — State qualifier in both the 50 free and 100 fly, and on two relay teams for the Irish last season.

Jack Rhode, Richwoods, sr. — Among area leaders in 100 backstroke and 50 freestyle last year, had strong off-season program to prepare for senior season.

Jakob Pettit, Galesburg, sr. — Sectional champ in 200 freestyle, was among the area leaders in several events last season.

JOURNAL STAR-AREA METRO POWER RANKINGS

1. Notre Dame

2. Dunlap Co-op

3. Richwoods

4. Pekin Co-op

5. Metamora Co-op

6. Washington Co-op

7. Peoria High

8. Manual