Chart toppers: Top candidates for Area Swimmer/Diver of the Year, courtesy Jeff Huth

Chart toppers: Top candidates for Area Swimmer/Diver of the Year, courtesy Jeff Huth

No. 1

Sam Stewart

Champaign Central

The Maroons senior has been a fixture at state since he was a freshman contributor on two state-qualifying relays. In each of the past two years, Stewart qualified for state in the 100-yard butterfly and 200 freestyle — finishing third in the former as a junior. The fly continues to be his signature event, with titles this season at the Bloomington Invitational on Dec. 17 and at Centennial's Charger Invitational last Saturday. Stewart's career resume includes four individual titles at sectionals, a figure that should rise this February.

No. 2

Blake Lehmann

Champaign Central

Stewart's classmate gives the Maroons a formidable one-two punch. Lehmann was the lone area swimmer to win two individual events at the Bloomington Invitational, capturing the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke. He followed with a title in the 50 free at the Charger Invitational. A two-time sectional champ in individual events, Lehmann this year will look to swim on the final day at state for the first time. He barely missed in 2011, losing a swim-off for the final spot in the 50 free consolation finals by 0.04 second. Even then, his 21.35-second clocking was the fourth fastest in Central history.

No. 3

Gabe Omo-Osagie

Centennial

This Chargers senior found his winter sports niche last school year after abandoning basketball for the pool. Not that Omo-Osagie was a novice in the water, having previously trained and competed with local swim clubs. That experience was quickly apparent, the then-junior qualifying for state in the 50 and 100 freestyles while also helping Centennial advance in the 200 free relay. This season, Omo-Osagie has finished in the top four in two sprint freestyles at the Bloomington Invitational and in the top five in the same events at the Charger Invitational.

No. 4

Evan Miller

Champaign Central

Keep an eye on this sophomore. Before his Maroons career is done, he could be the area's Swimmer of the Year. Miller made an immediate impact in his first high school season, placing in the top five at sectionals in two individual events, including second place in the 500 freestyle. In that same meet, he contributed to a state-qualifying performance in the 200 medley relay. This season, Miller has picked up where he left off while exhibiting skill and versatility in the non-freestyle events. In the Charger Invitational, he placed fourth in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke.

No. 5

Jon Delzell

Danville

A close call for this fifth spot, but the Vikings junior gets the nod based largely on an impressive performance at the Bloomington Invitational. In that meet, Delzell finished in the top three in two events, including runner-up in the 100 freestyle. He also possesses some stroke versatility, as was apparent in a sixth-place finish in the 100 backstroke at the Charger Invitational. Delzell was the only area swimmer in the top eight in that race. As a sophomore, Delzell made his presence felt at sectionals, placing in the top five in two events, including third in the 100 free.

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