Baylor's recent dominance in state swimming will be put to the test this weekend in Nashville by a couple of schools competing at home.
The Aqua Raiders have won four of the past five state championships but are considered slight underdogs this time around to Montgomery Bell Academy, while the Lady Raiders seek a fifth consecutive crown but are expecting a stiff challenge from Harpeth Hall. MBA and Harpeth Hall were the runners-up in Baylor's sweep a year ago in Knoxville.
"It's always an advantage when you get to stay in your own houses and sleep in your own beds," Baylor coach Dan Flack said. "Nashville kids always swim well when the meet is over there."
Baylor's girls rolled up 484 points last year to easily outdistance Harpeth Hall's 200 points and Bearden's 199. The Lady Raiders are seeded first in all three relay events, while Ashley Yearwood is seeded second in the 50-yard freestyle and Kristen Vredeveld likewise in the 100 free.
Flack is using Yearwood and Vredeveld in one individual event and three relays to bolster the relays, which are worth more points in Swimming World magazine's tabulation of the top programs nationally.
"We're making a run at our third national championship in four years on the girls' side," Flack said. "By doing it this way, we are also asking some of our younger, less-experienced kids to really step up this weekend."
Baylor has the opportunity for additional top-five individual performances with Hannah Peiffer in the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke, Bria Deveaux in the 100 free, Mikaya Reynolds in the 100 breaststroke and Kimberlee John-Williams in the 100 butterfly and 100 back.
GPS is hoping to improve upon a 16th-place finish last year with April Forsthoffer, who is seeded fifth in the 50 free and sixth in the 100 free, and Kristen Myers, who is seeded fourth in the 100 fly.
In the boys' meet a year ago, Baylor tallied 363 points to MBA's 306. Bearden scored 180 to take third over McCallie, which amassed 171.
"I would be delighted if this was a photo finish, because MBA is really good," Flack said. "They've got a lot of high-end talent, and we're a pretty young team. We're going to swim great. I'm confident of that, but they are really, really good.
"Every bullet we have is going to have to hit target."
Leading Baylor's efforts will be Christian Carbone, the top seed in the 200 IM, Luke Kaliszak, the second seed in the 100 back, and Sam McHugh, who's seeded fourth in the 200 free and fifth in the 500 free. The Aqua Raiders should rack up a slew of points in the 100 breast, where Carbone is seeded second, Dustin Tynes third and Matthew Chen sixth.
Michael Zuppa, the top seed in the 100 free and the second seed in the 50 free, is McCallie's top threat. The Blue Tornado should fare very well in the diving portion, where Michael Howell is seeded first and Frazier DeVaney fourth.
"If we swim well, we're going to be maybe third or fourth," McCallie coach Stan Corcoran said. "We could finish anywhere from third to seventh."
Signal Mountain is hoping to get a top-five finish from Mathias Porter, who is seeded fifth in the 100 breast.