CANTON -- The Upper Arlington High School girls swimming and diving team had the inside track to maintaining its eight-year grip on the Division I state championship up to the last two minutes of the state meet Feb. 23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Trailing Cincinnati Ursuline by 13 points entering the 400-yard freestyle relay, the Golden Bears led Ursuline halfway through the final event, 1 minute, 42.21 seconds to 1:42.3. But the Lions, whose preliminary time of 3:25.39 was five seconds better than UA's (3:30.82), took over from there.
Ursuline won in a state-record 3:23.19, ahead of second-place UA (3:26.7), to end the Bears' run of state titles. The Lions won the championship with 234 points and UA placed second with 215 as 55 teams scored.
Ursuline served notice it would be a formidable foe in the day's first event, winning the 200 medley relay in 1:43.27 as UA finished fourth (1:46.41). The Lions won three events to the Bears' two and had five runner-up finishes to UA's three.
"We knew how the meet was going to shake out," girls coach Dan Peterkoski said. "They took care of their business more than we did. We fell a bit short."
Senior Joey Long repeated as champion in the 200 free (1:38.45) and placed second in the 500 free (4:28.62) to power the boys team to a second-place finish behind Cincinnati St. Xavier for the second consecutive year. The Bears totaled 187.5 points and the Bombers finished with 270, as 57 teams scored.
St. Xavier won its fifth consecutive title and 34th overall, the most by any team in any sport in Ohio High School Athletic Association history. UA edged third-place Cleveland St. Ignatius by 1.5 points.
Long's championship came minutes after his sister, sophomore Gracie Long, placed second in the 200 free (1:48.63). He finished .48 of a second ahead of runner-up Jack Hendricks of St. Xavier, an Ohio State recruit.
"He (Joey) is a man. He swam that race perfectly," boys coach Mike de Bear said. "That was very fast."
Long said he gave less thought to what he did last year at state than keeping pace with his sister.
"Each year is a new year. I knew it'd be tough, but it's a brand-new year so you just have to take it like that and not just look to repeat," he said. "And Gracie is my little sister who's bigger than me. Second as a sophomore is pretty incredible, so I just wanted to go out and do the best I could. She's two years younger than me. I can't let her beat me."
Gracie Long teamed with freshman Erin Sheehan, sophomore Grace Van Fossen and junior Jenny Smith to win the 200 free relay in a state-record 1:34.19, a race in which Van Fossen's third leg gave the Bears a two-second lead on second-place Ursuline (1:35.61). Long also placed second in the 100 free (3:26.7) and teamed with junior Elizabeth Weldon, Van Fossen and Smith on the 400 free relay.
"This is my first time being on the relay, so it was just special to break the record in my first time," Van Fossen said. "I saw that I had to keep up the lead, that my leg was going to be extremely important to our team. I had to sustain the lead Gracie got for us. I knew I had to bring it home."
Also turning in top-eight finishes for the girls team were the 200 medley relay of juniors Betsy Trace and Jamie Krupp, senior Emily Annen and Sheehan (fourth, 1:46.41), junior Julie Dierker in the 500 free (eighth, 5:03.94), Smith in the 200 individual medley (seventh, 2:04.44) and 500 free (fifth, 4:58.98), Van Fossen in the 100 free (eighth, 59.44) and Weldon in the 500 free (fourth, 57.37).
"As I told the girls, what a great meet," Peterkoski said. "It's been fun to win for eight years. Second is nothing to hang our head about. We're still a strong program. It's fun to win, but at the same time it's unrealistic to think we'd never lose one again."
The boys team also got top-eight finishes from junior Thomas Trace in the 50 free (second, 20.94) and 100 backstroke (fourth, 49.99), the 200 medley relay of Trace, seniors Ian Reardon and Max Jelen and Joey Long (third, 1:33.31), the 200 free relay of Trace, senior Geoff Dickhaut, Jelen and Long (fifth, 1:25.76), Jelen in the 100 butterfly (fifth, 50.62) and 100 back (fifth, 51.3) and Reardon in the 200 IM (fourth, 1:51.96) and 100 breaststroke (seventh, 57.29).
"It was close and we made a few mistakes, but it was a good weekend," de Bear said. "To do what we've done the last two years, that says a lot about the small things we work on day in and day out -- finishes, turns, smart relay starts, not trying to be a hero. Thomas sneaking in second. So many things made a difference for us. It's a good day."