Being ranked high in the early season by Chicago’s daily newspapers can usually spell disaster for a high school swim team. The pressure to live up to the hype has a tendency to moor even the most focused swimmers. But the Fenwick boys swim team, ranked No. 2 by both publications, is actually using the predictions as a motivational tool.

“I myself was a little thrown off by the rankings, but the guys seem excited about the challenge,” said Fenwick head coach Dave Perry. “They want to live up to the rankings, so they are working hard to see that happen.”

Perry added that his team still has a lot of work to do in order to better last season’s mark of third place at the IHSA State Meet. But with the bulk of last year’s swimmers returning, Fenwick certainly has a shot at taking home its first state championship since the program capped off a three-peat in 1992.

Tom Parolin, Luke Baldwin, John Barrett and David Meyer helped the Friars to first place in two relay events last season (200 and 400-yard freestyle relays). Parolin also finished fourth in the 100 butterfly and sixth in the 200 freestyle, while Baldwin took 11th in the 200 individual medley.

Fenwick’s experience doesn’t stop there. Andrew McKernin, Mike Mackin and Chris Bonk were instrumental in helping the Friars secure second place in the Metro Catholic Aquatics Conference last season. Mackin qualified for state in the IM.

“We’re looking for big things out of both Mackin and Bonk this year as well,” said Perry.

Four sophomores expected to see extensive pool time near the end of the season include twin brothers Danny and Brian Barron, Chris Wendt, and Ryan Bartecki.

Perry said unlike last season, he’d like to have his relay groups tied down earlier in the schedule.

“We have a couple of holes to fill, but we have the bodies to fill them. Right now it’s just a matter of finding the right fit,” he said. “By January we should have the pieces in place. Everyone’s healthy so that’s a plus.”

In order to regain the top spot in the MCAC, the Friars will need to hold off Marmion, St. Patrick’s and Loyola, who edged the Friars by one point for first place last season. Fenwick’s possible state contender is No. 1-ranked and defending state champ New Trier.

“This team knows that last year’s success was no fluke, it wasn’t handed to them. They had to work hard for it,” said Perry. “So there’s no doubt in my mind that they will do the same this year.”

The Friars hosted cross-town rival OPRF last night (after deadline). They’ll split up for the Barrington invitational and a quad with St. Viator, St. Rita and Bishop McNamara on Saturday (10 a.m. at Fenwick).