At the conclusion of the OCC-Ohio Division meet Jan. 28 at Thomas Worthington, members of the Gahanna Lincoln High School girls swimming and diving team huddled together on the side of the pool as meet officials added up the team points to determine the champion.

At the conclusion of the OCC-Ohio Division meet Jan. 28 at Thomas Worthington, members of the Gahanna Lincoln High School girls swimming and diving team huddled together on the side of the pool as meet officials added up the team points to determine the champion.

When it was announced that the Lions had scored 241 points to win their first league title since 2008, several members of the team screamed in delight, jumped up and down and hugged one another.

Pickerington North finished second (238.5), followed by Pickerington Central (220), Grove City (198), Reynoldsburg (174.5), Lancaster (126) and Newark (1).

The eighth member of the OCC-Ohio, Groveport, does not have a swimming program.

"No one was sure if we had won or Pickerington North had won, so we were really surprised and excited when they announced we'd won," senior co-captain Emily Oty said. "We're really proud because we worked hard for this all season and really earned it."

As part of their celebration, the Lions pushed coach Erin Darrah and assistant coach Josh Buergel into the pool.

"Getting pushed in the pool after your team wins an important meet is a tradition," Darrah said. "I saw Pickerington North's coaches getting ready to go in the water, and while we were waiting for the results, I told my assistant, 'Man, do I want to go in the water,' so I was real happy when it happened. I brought extra clothes in case this happened, but Josh wasn't prepared for it, so it's going to be a long, cold ride home."

Morgan Belli won the 100-yard backstroke in 58.73 seconds ahead of Reynoldsburg's Morgan McCafferty (1:00.63) and won the 200 individual medley (2:09.27) ahead of North's Sara Sams (2:21.89).

Belli also teamed with Annie Devaney, Allison Mason and Kirstyn Thomas to place third in the 200 freestyle relay (1:47.7) and finish fourth in the 200 medley relay (1:57.62).

"Morgan getting first place in two (individual) events was a good boost for the team," Darrah said. "But we won this meet because of our depth. Twelve kids scored in each event, and we were able to put four girls in each event, which a lot of teams couldn't do. It took good performances from a lot of different girls for us to win this championship."

The boys team finished second (227) in the OCC-Ohio meet behind North (365) and ahead of Lancaster (211), Grove City (151), Reynoldsburg (116), Central (80) and Newark (5).

It was the second runner-up finish in a row for the Lions, who won four consecutive league titles from 2007-10.

Senior Chris Chang led the Lions by placing third in the 200 IM (2:10.66). He teamed with his brother Jon, Beau Snoad and Dan Mefford to place third in both the 200 medley relay (1:48.49) and 400 free relay (3:34.48).

"Pickerington North beat us with their depth," Darrah said. "They had four boys in every event, where we had only one in some of the events."

Gahanna had four swimmers score in the 100 free, as Jon Chang placed fourth (52.74), Mefford finished fifth (53.29), Owen Mair was 11th (1:04.35) and Mitch Courtney was 12th (1:04.74).

"I dropped a second in my 100 free, so I'm happy with that," Mefford said. "I'm most happy with the way our medley and 400 free relays performed. We had really hard practices (before the league meet), but our times should start to drop more once we start tapering for the postseason meets."

The boys and girls teams will spend the next eight days preparing for the Division I sectional meet on Feb. 11 at Thomas.

The winner of each sectional swimming event qualifies for the district meet Feb. 18 at Ohio State. In addition, 27 at-large district berths will be awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites. Divers do not compete until the district meet.

"We're just going to focus on the mechanics of swimming, such as starts and turns, to get ready for sectional," Darrah said. "We're going to start tapering soon, and we're hoping that will make a big difference in our times."

Last season in the same sectional, the boys team scored 73 points to finish eighth behind champion New Albany (238.5) and the girls team scored 61 points to finish ninth behind champion Thomas (194).

"We usually get a good amount of our team through to district and I think we can get more through again," senior co-captain Rachel Markley said. "Winning OCC is definitely a boost for all of us."