But Lassiter benefitted from more top-tier depth, which led to more success.
Having more depth up top is a key reason why the Lady Trojans have won 11 of the last 13 county championships and a string of four straight state championships from 2008-11.
Walton was the lone team that prevented Lassiter’s county streak from being uninterrupted, with the Lady Raiders winning county in 2008 and again last season.
Walton appears to have more depth as a whole and is able to place many of its swimmers in the county meet, which takes 10 swimmers in each of two heats.
But when it comes to the state meet, only eight swimmers are allowed in the main heat and the consolation heats, which cancels out the depth Walton would use at county, forcing it to rely more on the experience of its swimmers.
Lassiter benefitted from having more depth in the top 16 last season, which explained why the Lady Trojans finished third in the Class AAAAAA, and Walton had to settle for eighth.
Kennesaw Mountain, which had less depth than Walton but more top-tier swimmers — including Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Swimmer of the Year Rebecca Postoll — and experienced divers, finished sixth ahead of Walton.
“Those kids that score in third and fourth at county don’t always score at state,” Kennesaw Mountain coach David Reason said. “I think it’s going to be a toss-up between Walton and Lassiter, literally.”
With both of the east Cobb teams returning roughly the same number of experienced swimmers, their placement at county and state will come down to relays and individual placements.
Both teams lost one key swimmer from last season, and they’re bringing back many.
Lassiter is expecting big things from senior sprinter Micaela Janco and senior distance freestylist Nicole Prendes. Lassiter also has a handful of juniors in Lauren Brewer (100-yard breaststroke), Olivia Clark (distance freestyle), Rachel Cuttic (500 freestyle) and Lauren O’Malley (500 freestyle, 100 breaststroke).
And the Lady Trojans are relying on freshman help as well.
“The majority of the girls team is returning from last year with a lot of exciting new additions of the freshman class,” Lassiter coach Brittany Hughes said. “We have a lot of young freshmen who are going to help.”
Walton is expecting big things from its six leading seniors, anchored by Kira de Bruyn, a two-time state champion in the 200 individual medley.
The Lady Raiders will also have senior standouts Jane Watts (100 breaststroke, 200 IM), Halle Friedman (500 freestyle, 100 butterfly), Channing Hans (100 breaststroke, 500 freestyle), Anna Marino (sprint freestyle) and Sehyun Cho (100 butterfly, 200 IM).
“We have girls coming in that are stronger than ever,” Walton coach Mary Howell Hafner said. “Halle Friedman has performed well this summer and is stronger than ever. Kira is also on fire and we expect her to do really well again.”
Kennesaw Mountain has been a threat on the girls side the last two years, but it will have to make do without Postoll, whose family relocated to Charlotte, N.C., where she joined an elite club program led by former champion college coach David Marsh.
Despite losing Postoll, the Lady Mustangs will benefit from having one of the strongest diving units in state, along with returning senior Elizabeth Murray (sprint freestyle) and Maggie Layde (100 butterfly, freestyle).
Reason said he has at least four freshmen who could surprise, but he is still feeling the loss of Postoll.
“We still have a solid team,” Reason said. “What makes us solid is that we’re strong in every stroke and we have depth. We’re a young team, but the strength we have is in diving.”