Upper Arlington High School boys swimming and diving coach Mike de Bear and girls coach Dan Peterkoski swear district championships are equally sweet every year.
Their actions during the Division I district meet Feb. 16 at Ohio State seem to be proof.
The usually reserved Peterkoski couldn't contain himself as sophomore Gracie Long set a new district record in the 200-yard freestyle, winning the title in 1 minute, 48.21 seconds to edge the previous mark of 1:49.82 set by Dublin Scioto's Kate McNeilis in 2010. Peterkoski jumped up and down in elation, emphatically waving Long to the finish line.
"There's always the big elephant in the room," Peterkoski said, referring to his team's eight consecutive state championships. "But I try to tell the girls that we don't win anything unless all the parts are doing their job. You have to focus on our individual goals, our individual swims and, if the individual does their job, then the team can be successful."
The boys team won its third consecutive district championship and 51st overall, scoring 380 points to ease past runner-up St. Charles (271) as 24 teams scored. The girls team won its 14th consecutive district title with 491 points, almost doubling runner-up Thomas Worthington (250) as 24 teams scored.
Between the boys and girls teams, UA qualified for the state meet Thursday, Feb. 21, through Saturday, Feb. 23, at Branin Natatorium in Canton in every swimming event except the boys 100 free and girls 100 backstroke.
For his part, de Bear said half-jokingly that before his 6-month-old daughter was born, he'd "have stopped eating Wednesday" out of anxiety for district. Now, his priorities are slightly different, but the sport remains his passion.
"This is fun," de Bear said. "Sometimes I need to take a step back and enjoy it a little bit more and realize how well we swam. We had kids in all sorts of different spots. That's tough this week, but we swam really well."
Long earned the top seed at state in both the 200 free and 100 free (50.3).
"I just wanted to go under 1:50 (in the 200 free)," she said. "I went 1:49 last year and really wanted to drop time. I worked harder this year. I knew I'd be able to go faster."
Juniors Jenny Smith and Elizabeth Weldon won district titles in the 200 individual medley (2:03.53) and 500 free (4:56.81), respectively, for the girls team, as did the 200 free (1:35.89) and 400 free (3:29.01) relays. The girls team got second-place finishes from the 200 medley relay (1:46.4) and Smith in the 500 free (5:03).
The top two finishers in each swimming event at district automatically advanced to state. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded for each swimming event based on district times statewide. The top three boys divers and top four girls divers also advance to state.
For the boys team, senior Joey Long won the 200 free (1:42.25) and was second in the 500 free (4:39.75), senior Ian Reardon won the 200 IM (1:53.13) and was second in the 100 breaststroke (57.7) and junior Thomas Trace was first in the 100 back (50.79) and third in the 50 free (21.18). The 200 medley relay (1:35.27) and 400 free relay (3:11.68) also won, and the 200 free relay was second (1:26.95).
"We couldn't have asked for more," Reardon said. "My IM was real good. I went the same time I did last year, but last year I had fully shaved and tapered for this meet so I was pretty much on par with that. My breaststroke was an outstanding race. I went significantly faster than ever."
Other state qualifiers for the girls team were senior Emily Annen in the 100 butterfly (57.38, fifth), junior Julie Dierker in the 500 free (5:05.12, third), sophomore Alexandra Hedden in the 200 free (1:54.54, sixth) and 100 free (53.16, seventh), junior Jamie Krupp in the 100 breast (1:06.13, fourth), sophomore Emma Lammers in the 100 fly (57.22, fourth), senior Sarah Mamo in the 200 IM (2:07.49, third), freshman Erin Sheehan in the 200 IM (2:08, fourth), junior Betsy Trace in the 50 free (24.68, fourth), sophomore Grace Van Fossen in the 200 free (1:53.64, third) and 100 free (51.95, third) and Weldon in the 200 free (1:53.65, fourth).
Also qualifying for the boys were senior Max Jelen in the 100 fly (51.46, fourth) and 100 back (51.93, third), junior Zach Newcome in the 200 free (1:43.65, third) and 500 free (4:40.25, third) and freshman Colin Reardon in the 200 IM (1:55.96, fifth).
Asked if there were any surprising performances at district, Peterkoski quickly answered.
"No surprises," he said. "We tend to see exactly what we expect here. Those who are working very, very well throughout the year get rewarded here. There can't be a surprise. You put in the work, you reap the rewards here."