Swimming & Diving
Swimmers from UA, Pickerington Central, Westerville North win individual state titles
CANTON — Standing on the third platform inside the C.T. Branin Natatorium, Joey Long had a little bit of extra motivation. One race earlier, his younger sister, Gracie, had recorded her second straight 200-yard freestyle runner-up finish in the Division I state meet.
The older Long, a senior for Upper Arlington, then went out and repeated as the state champion in the boys’ 200 freestyle in 1 minute, 38.43 seconds. After receiving his medal, Long shrugged and smiled when asked about the win.
After all, he couldn’t let his younger sister have bragging rights.
“Second as a sophomore is pretty incredible, so I wanted to go out and win,” he said. “I mean, she’s two years younger than me — I can’t let her beat me.”
Standing atop the podium, Long also paid tribute to his eventual college with the help of Akron Firestone’s Mark Belanger, Cincinnati Sycamore’s Charlie Fry and Cincinnati St. Xavier’s Jack Hendricks. With Belanger, Fry and Long committed to Ohio State, the four spelled out “O-H-I-O” with their arms after receiving their medals as the capacity crowd roared.
“They committed before I did, and I think Jack is getting ready to,” Long said. “We just thought it would be cool since we’re going there next year.”
Gracie later earned her own title as a member of the Upper Arlington 200 freestyle relay team that finished in 1:34.19 and set a state record. She got the Golden Bears an early lead that sophomore Grace Van Fossen extended to nearly three seconds in the third leg.
“I saw that I had to keep up the lead that Gracie got for us, but I knew that this was very important to our team and I knew I had to bring it home,” Van Fossen said.
Pickerington Central senior Maddie Martin, who will swim for Auburn next year, closed her high-school career with her fourth state title in the 100 butterfly in 55.37.
“I knew I couldn’t get three and then not get the fourth,” Martin said with a smile. “I feel like I was expected to win. I really wanted to do it.”
Martin earned the title despite being seeded sixth and swimming in lane seven.
“I really don’t think it matters what lane you’re in,” she said. “I was just excited that I made the final heat.”
Westerville North sophomore Mason Miller held off Upper Arlington junior Thomas Trace by 0.07 of a second to earn a state title in the 50 freestyle in 20.87.
“I definitely knew I was with (him),” Miller said. “I didn’t know if I was ahead or not.”
For the first time since 2004, however, the Upper Arlington girls did not come away with a team title. That went to Cincinnati Ursuline Academy, which edged the eight-time defending champions 234-215 for its sixth state title and first since 2002. Coach Dan Peterkoski said he told his girls that all good things must end.
“For these girls to do what they’ve done for eight years is very, very impressive,” Peterkoski said, his voice wavering. “People need to remember that. I’m very proud of what they did today and what they’ve done over eight years. Second is nothing to hang your head about. It’s fun to win, but at the same time it’s probably unrealistic to win them all.”
Despite a roster of 20, the Upper Arlington boys held off rival Cleveland St. Ignatius 187.5-186 to earn their second straight state runner-up finish. Cincinnati St. Xavier won its fifth straight title and 34th overall with 270 points.
“We battled,” coach Mike DeBear said. “Two straight years, we found a way to get that second place. No one is going to remember how we got there in 15-20 years, but the fact that we did, we swam really, really well for two days.”