When the Upper Arlington High School girls swimming and diving team visits Gates Mills Hawken on Saturday, Dec. 3, it will be a matchup of two of the most successful programs in the state.

When the Upper Arlington High School girls swimming and diving team visits Gates Mills Hawken on Saturday, Dec. 3, it will be a matchup of two of the most successful programs in the state.

The Golden Bears have won the last seven Division I state titles, while the Hawks have won 13 consecutive state titles between Divisions I and II.

Hawken (21 titles in Divisions I and II) and Upper Arlington (eight titles) have combined for 29 state championships. That's 10 more than all of the other girls teams in the state combined.

"Hawken is a great team. They are going to be there every year at the end to win a championship," said UA coach Dan Peterkoski, whose team lost to Hawken 101-82 in last year's opener. "It's a great place for us to measure where we are when we stand up to the most storied program in state history."

If Hawken is the top program in the state in girls swimming, the Bears aren't far behind.

UA's current streak of state titles puts them in elite company with the Brecksville-Broadview Heights gymnastics team (eight consecutive state titles), the Lakewood St. Edward wrestling team (13 consecutive titles from 1997-2009 and 10 in a row from 1978-87), the Cincinnati St. Xavier boys swimming and diving team (nine consecutive titles from 1999-2007 and 12 in a row from 1970-81) and, of course, the Hawken girls swimming team.

UA ranked first in Class 7 (public schools with an enrollment of 1,400-1,900 students) in the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association's power point rankings for the 2010-11 season.

There's not just one reason why UA excels in girls swimming. The Bears' success comes down to tradition, training and time.

Tradition

When one walks into the natatorium at UA, what immediately stands out are the more than 250 plaques of All-Americans and academic All-Americans produced by the boys and girls swimming teams. In addition, the record times and the championship banners of the swimming and water polo teams dot the natatorium.

Those reminders of greatness help push the swimmers through their demanding training sessions.

"Very rarely do we lose someone because they just quit, because they don't want to do it or because it's too much," Peterkoski said. "The kids take pride in the fact that they do a lot more than some kids in other sports to prepare themselves. They know they're doing something special because of the process."

Training

Grueling is probably the word that best describes the training. Four days a week, swimmers are in the pool before school, from 5:30 to 7 a.m. They then swim two hours after school, in addition to an hour or so of land training.

Senior Claire Van Fossen, who placed second at state last year in the 100-yard butterfly (56.69 seconds), said UA's success can be traced to the way its swim club prepares elementary and middle schoolers for the high school level.

"We have kids who have trained for this since they were in fourth grade," Van Fossen said. "They know the expectations of when you are in high school. They also know it will pay off in the end."

Time

It takes awhile to see that training pay off. In Van Fossen's case, it took years.

She admits that she wasn't the strongest age-group swimmer coming into high school and was assigned to lane six, which is the lane reserved for developing swimmers.

After watching her sister, Katie, a 2010 UA graduate, go through the process, Claire believed that if she trained hard during her freshman year, she would experience a significant time-drop at the end of the season.

But that didn't happen. She got sick at the end of her freshman season and didn't drop time like she had hoped. That just made her more determined.

"My sophomore year I stepped up to the plate. I thought if I want to go fast, I have to try harder in practice," she said. "That's where my success really kicked in and I started to turn heads."

Stories like Claire Van Fossen's aren't uncommon at UA. They reverberate off the walls in the banners and in the All-American plaques.

But Peterkoski said success is not something he ever takes for granted.

"It takes a very special person to swim for us," Peterkoski said. "We live in an instant gratification society. People want to see immediate results.

"Swimming is probably the least instant gratification sport there is. Our results are usually three or four months off and sometimes it's difficult to get kids to keep that vision."

But at UA, they keep that vision more often than not.