CANTON - Joey Long may struggle for half or even three-fourths of his races. However, in the final 10 yards, the junior for the Upper Arlington High School boys swimming and diving team is very hard to beat.

CANTON - Joey Long may struggle for half or even three-fourths of his races. However, in the final 10 yards, the junior for the Upper Arlington High School boys swimming and diving team is very hard to beat.

Long used strong finishes to capture state titles in the 200-yard freestyle and 500 free in the Division I state meet that concluded Feb. 25 at Branin Natatorium. He turned in a time of 1 minute, 38.64 seconds in the 200 free to edge Toledo St. Francis' Matt Zimmerman by .03 of a second and swam the 500 free in 4:29.82 to finish .19 of a second ahead of Centerville's Josh Brooks.

"I don't get a lead too often against state-caliber guys, but I've always liked to swim from behind," Long said. "When it's that close, you just kind of hope you made it. To look up and to see that I got it by .03 of a second is incredible."

Led by Long's state titles and strong performances in the relays, the Golden Bears placed second with 198 points behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (297.5) and ahead of St. Francis (195).

The state championship was the 33rd for the Bombers. UA, which has placed second at state 15 times, had its best finish since it was runner-up in 2005.

"You'd like to have another state title, but when you have a team like St. X, it's an uphill battle," coach Mike de Bear said. "However, for this group to finish second (is special).
"Our goal all year is to get on the banner (that lists state championship and state runner-up team finishes) at our pool. When you reach your goal, it's a great thing."

Including Long's finishes in the 200 free and 500 free, UA had eight top-eight finishes at state. The others were senior Sean Neri, juniors Ian Reardon and Max Jelen and sophomore Thomas Trace teamed in the 200 medley relay (1:34.18, fifth), Trace, Long and seniors Adam Dodson and Andrew Rabe in the 200 free relay (1:25.07, fourth), Long, Rabe, Neri and senior Ryan Cutler in the 400 free relay (3:07.59, fourth), Neri in the 500 free (4:39.54, seventh) and 100 backstroke (51.75, eighth) and Reardon in the 200 individual medley (1:54.24, seventh).

"This is very exciting for me," Neri said. "Before this season, I hadn't made it to the awards podium. I want to do everything I can to get points for the team."

Also reaching the finals were Cutler in the 100 butterfly (52.54, 16th), Jelen in the 100 fly (51.68, 12th) and 100 back (52.58, 14th), Rabe in the 50 free (21.82, 13th) and 100 free (46.99, 12th), Reardon in the 100 breaststroke (59.14, 14th) and Trace in the 200 IM (1:56.01, 12th) and 100 back (51.44, ninth).
Cutler also finished 19th in the 200 free (1:45.72) and sophomore Zach Newcome was 20th in the 500 free (4:46.48).

Trace was seeded third for the 100 back after finishing first in 50.84 in the district meet Feb. 18 at Ohio State, but he decided to focus on the 200 medley relay instead.

"They're all about sacrifice," de Bear said. "Thomas kind of took one for the team there to swim in that relay. I was choked up on and off all day thinking about that."

UA clung to a 168-161 lead over St. Francis for second heading into the final event, the 400 free relay. De Bear calculated that if the Knights won the event, they would bump the Bears into third. However, Brooks touched the wall .06 of a second before St. Francis' Dan DiSalle to allow Centerville to win the event (3:05.13), keeping UA second in the team standings.

"We were the biggest Centerville fans there at the end of the race," de Bear said. "I told the guys afterward they owe their anchor a big thank you."