Exactly two weeks from now, the county's best high school swim team begins its quest to improve its 2-9 dual-meet record from a year ago.
A 2-9 record might not sound like it belongs to a best team, but Severn School has the county's only high school swimming program.
The coed team competes against all-male and other coed teams during the regular season in the Maryland Scholastic Association BB Conference.
Its female members also compete in the Association of Independent Schools post-season meet in late February -- a meet the Admiral girls have won the past three years.
"It's funny, we've won the meet for the past three years, and they never go into it expecting towin," said six-year coach Tom Heslin.
"They just go in and give it their best. The winning school gets a banner to hang in their gym, and winning that banner gives them a tremendous amount of pride."
During last year's AIS meet, then-freshman Joan Chidester was selected as the meet's outstanding swimmer, breaking records in both the 100- and 200-meter freestyle races.
In addition to leading the meet-record-holding 400 freestyle relay squad, the 15-year-old also took two events in the MSA championships.
"Joan is the best swimmer on the team, bar none. All of the cliches used to describe an athlete apply to her. She's unassuming and very smart, a high honor roll student," said Heslin, who teaches Latin at the school.
Jenny Duffy, Beth Snow, Jeanneine Witt, Doug Schaffer (captain) and John Svahn all return for their senior year of competition. Snow, Witt and sophomore Erika Larsen joined Chidester on the champion 400 relay squad.
Returning juniors include Brian Depew and Robin Quinton, while freshmen Chris Sheehan, Tim Libby and Eugene Youn are expected to make major contributions.
"I'd have to say that the girls are on par with the boys on this team, and they (the girls) don't mind getting beat by the girls," said Heslin, who swam at the scholastic level in his home state of Connecticut.
Severn will open its season against Mount St. Joseph on Dec. 12 at Catonsville Community College, as the Admirals will be the visiting team in all 11 meets.
"It's too bad we don't have any home meets, because it really takes away from the fan support that we would otherwise get," said Heslin. "We had one home meet here last year (against Mount St. Joseph), and the place was packed.
"here's no political problems or anything (with scheduling). Things just didn't work out. Our athletic director (Fred Hewitt) does a lot of juggling with time and space. I guess this time, (the schedule) didn't juggle properly."
Heslin remain cautiously optimistic when predicting the fortunes of his 40-member contingent, which includes eighth-grade junior-varsity team members.
"I think we'll definitely improve on the 2-9 record. The girls will continue to be very strong, andI think we'll have a couple of surprises in the boys," he said.
"Some of the freshmen boys who either weren't here or had to swim JV last year are going to take a lot of points this year."