The Bemidji High swim team opens its new season today, swimming at the Apollo Relays at St. Cloud.
The Jacks took third at last year's meet, trailing Sartell and St. Cloud Tech.
They may have to battle to finish that high today with two of their top starts missing.
Mat Wilcox and Dylan Hoven are competing at the U.S. Junior National Championships in Indiana this weekend, members of Team Minnesota.
Bemidji finished in the top four of most of its major meets last year save for the True Team sectional, winning titles at Detroit Lakes and Bemidji and taking second at Hibbing and the section meet.
At the state it scored 77½ points, its second highest total in history, to finish ninth among 65 teams that scored.
Graduation claimed the second scorer, Tucker Asper,. third, Jared Vanasse, fourth, Nick Lee, seventh Derek Buckanaga and eighth, Jakob Pederson, Pederson a foreign exchange student.
Asper is now swimming at Cal-Davis and Lee at St. John's.
But scoring leader Wilcox (510.5) returns to head a promising unit.
Wilcox, Paul Voss (6th) and diver Anthony Hanson are the only seniors back who lettered with Dylan Hoven (5th), Adam Falk (9th) and Nick Nyberg (10th) the only juniors.
Other lettermen are freshman Pat Voss and eighth graders Dylan Tillemans and Gunnar Nelson.
Wilcox (21) and Hoven (19) led the team at the state with Asper, Lee and Vanasse each scoring 12½.
Wilcox, Hoven, Falk, Nyberg and the Voss brothers should form a solid cast to begin with.
But the team will have to develop depth and balance to pick up the 1,771 points that graduated.
Coach Woody Leindecker plans to use today's event to test his troops under fire an d get a better look at their potential.
Newcomers include juniors Jared Becker and Seth Olson, freshmen Trent Edens, Justin Jernigan, Moises Prince, Craig Scholl and Alex Gubbels and French exchange student Quentin Delextrat.
Leindecker begins his sixth season in his second tenure as head coach and eighth overall.
His teams are 40-17 in his previous seven seasons, going 6-0 in 2009.
He will be aided again by Jen Belisle with Ryan Ohnstad coaching the divers
Bemidji drops a class this year for the first time but will face such state powers as Hutchinson and Fergus Falls at the section level.
The Jacks head to Thief River Tuesday for their first dual meet.