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Carson Gross was a freshman on the York Suburban girls' swimming team when Erin Merkle was a senior.

The two swam together on a state championship relay squad.

Gross, of course, remembers Merkle's talent, but also recalls her leadership and the example she set for the younger swimmers.

Gross is a senior now, and she will be relied on to provide leadership by example.

"I'll always remember Erin," Gross said following a recent practice. "Certainly, I'm looking to improve my times, but I want everyone to improve their times. I want to help get kids to districts and states who have never been there before."

Gross, and another senior, Madie Devaney, will be the leaders on a team dominated by younger swimmers.

"Madie Devaney is my closest friend, and she'll help make sure that everyone is working," Gross said.

Gross, who has committed to swim for Duquesne on the NCAA Division I level, is coming off a spectacular junior season when she captured the gold medal in the 200-yard freestyle at the PIAA Class AA state meet. Gross holds the school record in the event.

"Hopefully, I can get under 1:50 this year (in the 200 freestyle), and I want to see what the relay teams can go," she said.

Gross'  list of goals also includes being part of a York-Adams championship team.

"W're going to try and get the division (Division II) again, but it's going to be challenging," she said.

Trojans' head coach Craig Brennan is looking forward to watching Gross compete one more year.

"Carson, I'm excited for her, being a senior and having accomplished some great things up to this point." Brennan said. "She's a leader in the pool, and the girls respect her very much."

Jenna Hufnagle (fifth in the 100 butterfly at the District 3-AA meet) is also part of this year's Trojans' squad.

Around the Division II: Gross and her teammates won last year's District 3-AA crown and secured the York-Adams Division II title by defeating West York in the final division meet of the season. The Bulldogs are expected to be very good again this season.

Taylor Hoover is back after winning the 200 freestyle and placing second in the 100 freestyle at last season's York-Adams meet.

Maelyn Elder (fourth in the 100 butterfly at the District 3-AA meet) returns, along with diving star Erica Sarver. Sarver put together a sensational sophomore season, winning the York-Adams and District 3 meets and capturing a bronze medal at the state meet. Maddie Stoner won medals in the 50 and 100 freestyles at the York-Adams meet.

The Dover girls may also have something to say about the Division II race, and Northeastern coach Dan Schaeberle is counting on Abby Braswell, who was part of a 400 freestyle relay team that medaled at the district meet last year.

Susquehannock brings back a veteran team after graduating just three swimmers from the 2014-15 team. Megan Keuler, one of the returning swimmers, qualified for the district meet in the 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle.

Division I: In Division I, the Dallastown dynasty will bid for its 12th consecutive championship.

Wildcats' coach Rich Howley said he has good group of girls, although the size of the squad (23) is smaller than usual.

"Every single one of our swimmers will be very important in dual meets," Howley said.

The veteran coach is banking on the leadership of senior captains Becca Brown and Ella Marston. He can also rely on Jena Woods, the bronze medalist in the 100 breaststroke at last season's York-Adams meet.

Red Lion and Central, were the second- and third-place finishers, respectively, in the division last year.

The Sopkos (Mackenzie, Camryn and Olivia), along with Sarah Hartman and Sarah Spinney, were mainstays for Central last year.

Reach Dick VanO'Linda at sports@yorkdispatch.com.

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