It's the last go-around for the all-senior "Big 4" on the Nicolet boys swimming team, the quartet of Riccardo Romersi, Ben Cook, Collin Siverhus and Dylan Hall, and they are looking to make the most of it.
The group, which led the Knights to a sixth-place finish in the 2016 WIAA D2 state swim meet in February, got the season off to a good start with a fourth-place effort in the Knights' own 14-squad, talent-laden Chuck Walters Memorial Invite on Dec. 3.
"The four of them have a lot of history at the state meet," said coach Bill Schuster. "Overall, it's been a real positive start for us. Only a handful of guys didn't swim in the off-season, and I think the guys (who did swim) realize it will pay off big in the long run. We've got guys who are swimming as fast now as they did at the end of last season."
Furthermore, numbers for the Knights are very good at around 40.
"This is one of the biggest guys teams we've ever had," he said.
So there is much reason for optimism for the Knights despite the graduation of D2 state champion diver Jeremy Moser, who is at the University of Minnesota.
As noted, the history of the "Big 4" is a good one. At last year's state meet, Romersi was second in the 50-yard freestyle and fifth in the 100 free, while Siverhus was fourth in the 100 breaststroke and fifth in the 200 individual medley. Furthermore, the quartet also medaled in the 200 medley relay (fourth) and the 200 free relay (fifth).
Also encouraging for Schuster is that the team has 12 freshmen out, six of them new to the team.
"About 50 percent of the team is new," he said. He added the diving portion of the team will not be totally bereft with Moser's graduation, as three new divers are out and two of them already have completed the requisite 11 dives.
"I'm impressed that they're really picking things up," Schuster said. He said recently retired Knight coach Dwight Davis will also play a role in helping Nicolet swimmers refine their technique. "He's going to really help out there," Schuster added.
Schuster was also impressed with the efforts at the Walters Invite, which is the new name for the Knights' annual sprint invite.
They scored 218.5 points for their spot as Middleton dominated the meet with 450, Verona/Mount Horeb was second (246) and Grafton third (229). Nicolet took on Grafton in the opening North Shore dual meet of the season on Dec. 6.
Both Romersi and Siverhus recorded event victories to lead the way. Romersi won the 50 free in 21.95 seconds, while Siverhus took the 50 breaststroke (28.79). Siverhus was also second in the 100 individual medley (55.44).
Other top finishes by event included the following: 400 medley relay: fourth (3:36.25); 50 butterfly: Cook, third (24.63); 200 individual medley: Hall, sixth (2:09.84); and 500 free relay: fourth (4:02.8).
The two relays are nontraditional lengths with multiple swimmers taking part for each team.
"I thought we swam really well," Schuster said. "We were still second midway through the meet. I think we got our guys really fired up. But even if we had won, they know there are still some things we can fix because we still have some guys getting back to where they need to be."
He was also pleased the Knights finished ahead of conference rivals Cedarburg (sixth) and Whitefish Bay (eighth).
The Knights will be at the Brown Deer/USM Falconcat Invitational on Saturday, Dec. 10. Nicolet's girls won their version of the meet a few months ago.
"We're looking to go two for two on Saturday," Schuster said.