During the Upper Arlington High School swimming and diving program's season-ending banquet March 6, boys coach Mike de Bear had a simple message not only for his team but for the girls.
"So many people have come up and congratulated us for what we did this year," de Bear said. "If we take a step back from our vacuum and really look at what we were able to accomplish, we're in a pretty good position. My message to everybody is that next year starts now."
The boys team placed second to Cincinnati St. Xavier in the Division I state meet for the second consecutive year, scoring 187.5 points behind the Bombers (270) as 57 teams scored.
The girls team also placed second, but there was a different tenor to its finish. UA scored 215 points to finish 19 shy of champion Cincinnati Ursuline (234), which broke the Golden Bears' eight-year title streak as 55 teams scored. But coach Dan Peterkoski said any sadness quickly morphed into determination for next season, adding that most of his swimmers are relaxing this month before starting their offseason long-course schedule in April.
"The girls have been in good spirits," Peterkoski said. "They have nothing to be down about. We had a good season and they performed well. We merely ran into a group of girls that were better."
UA's teams swept the championships at the league, sectional and district levels and advanced competitors to the state meet held Feb. 21-23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton in every event except the boys 100-yard freestyle and girls 100 backstroke.
Senior Joey Long, an Ohio State signee, defended his title in the 200 free (1 minute, 38.45 seconds), placed second in the 500 free (4:28.62), teamed with seniors Ian Reardon and Max Jelen and junior Thomas Trace to place third in the 200 medley relay (1:33.31) and teamed with Jelen, Trace and senior Geoff Dickhaut to place fifth in the 200 free relay (1:25.76).
Trace placed second in the 50 free (20.94) and fourth in the 100 back (49.99), Reardon finished fourth in the 200 individual medley (1:51.96) and seventh in the 100 breaststroke (57.29) and Jelen was fifth in both the 100 butterfly (50.62) and 100 back (51.3).
De Bear said junior Zach Newcome, who competed at state in the 200 free (22nd, 1:45.27) and 500 free (17th, 4:42.26), particularly made big strides this season.
"Before the season, we were really unsure what we'd get from him," de Bear said. "But he performed expertly in his events and really stepped it up on the relays. Then there was Colin Reardon, who was the only freshman at state in the IM (finishing 18th in 1:58.13). These kids are fully invested and I'm excited to see how they can grow."
The boys team loses six seniors, including Dickhaut, Jelen, Long and Ian Reardon, and the girls team loses two seniors in Emily Annen and Sarah Mamo.
Annen teamed with juniors Jamie Krupp and Betsy Trace and freshman Erin Sheehan to finish fourth in the 200 medley relay (1:46.41) and placed 12th in the 100 fly (57.38). Mamo finished 14th in the 200 IM (2:08.66).
Arguably the highlight of the girls team's trip to state was the performance turned in by the 200 free relay, which set a meet record by winning in 1:34.19. Sophomore Gracie Long, Sheehan and juniors Grace Van Fossen and Jenny Smith finished .07 of a second shy of the state-record that UA set in 2011 with Abby Chin, Lauren Comer, Kyla Hammerberg and Gabby Veri.
"This is my first time being on the relay, so it was just special to break the (meet) record," said Van Fossen, who was voted the team's Most Improved Swimmer by her teammates after not being in the state lineup as a freshman. "I saw that I had to keep up the lead, that my (third) 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."
Long was second at state in the 100 free (49.85) and teamed with Smith, Van Fossen and junior Elizabeth Weldon to place second in the 400 free relay (3:26.7). Other top finishes at state came from junior Julie Dierker in the 500 free (eighth, 5:03.94), Smith in the 200 IM (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).
In the OCC-Central Division meet Jan. 26 at Thomas Worthington, the boys team won 10 of 12 events to score 452 points, finishing well ahead of Olentangy Liberty (229), Thomas (214), Dublin Coffman (200), Hilliard Davidson (96), Marysville (72) and Central Crossing (51). Westland does not have a swimming and diving program.
The girls team won seven events and scored 452 points to win its 14th consecutive league title, finishing ahead of Thomas (240), Liberty (185), Coffman (182), Davidson (115), Central Crossing (52) and Marysville (48).
In a 12-team sectional meet Feb. 9 in its home pool, the boys team finished first (351) ahead of runner-up St. Charles (263) and the girls team finished first (463) ahead of runner-up Watterson (185).
UA also dominated the district meet Feb. 16 at Ohio State, as the boys team finished first (380) ahead of runner-up St. Charles (271) as 24 teams scored and the girls team placed first (491) well ahead of runner-up Thomas (250) as 24 teams scored.