According to Elizabeth Weldon of the Upper Arlington High School girls swimming and diving team, the Golden Bears are driven by the fact that their streak of eight consecutive Division I state championships ended last season.
UA scored 215 points at state last season to place second, 19 shy of champion Cincinnati Ursuline (234), as 55 teams scored. In a little more than two months, the Bears will have an opportunity to regain the state title.
"It's definitely an unspoken motivation," Weldon said. "Our coaches always say that it's a lot more fun to be the hunter than the hunted, so that's what's different this year. We're so accustomed to being the hunted, so this is definitely a different approach. It's a different environment and attitude. We're looking to take back what we want."
Weldon is one of seven seniors for the Bears, who also have 14 freshmen on their 33-member roster. UA opened Dec. 7 by winning the Ned Reeb Invitational at Ohio State, scoring 488 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Granville (273) as 46 teams scored.
Returning state qualifiers are seniors Julie Dierker (500-yard freestyle), Jamie Krupp (100 breaststroke, 200 medley relay), Jenny Smith (200 individual medley, 500 free, 200 free relay, 400 free relay), Betsy Trace (50 free, 200 medley relay) and Weldon (200 free, 500 free, 400 free relay), juniors Alexandra Hedden (100 free, 200 free), Emma Lammers (100 butterfly), Gracie Long (100 free, 200 free, 200 free relay, 400 free relay) and Grace Van Fossen (100 free, 200 free relay, 400 free relay) and sophomore Erin Sheehan (200 free relay, 200 medley relay).
Long, Sheehan, Smith and Van Fossen won the 200 free relay title in a state meet-record 1 minute, 34.19 seconds. Long, Smith, Van Fossen and Weldon placed second in the 400 free relay (3:26.7) and Long placed second in the 100 free (49.85) and 200 free (1:48.63).
The rest of the swimmers are seniors Rachel Weber and Meghan Wilson, sophomores Sarah Dilz, Emma Griffith, Jane Nida and Alexandria Ventresca and freshmen Lauren Alexander, Brooke Brown, Grace Cullen, Molly Dierker, Anna Fischer, Anna Linzell, Emily Long, Paige MacNaughton, Lizzie Morris, Anastasia Peratopoulos, Julie Trace and Katie Trace.
The Bears have five divers in junior Danielle Rehl, sophomores Alyssa Colasanti, Olivia March and Kelly Strayton and freshman Ellie Winslow.
Eleventh-year coach Dan Peterkoski hopes his experienced upperclassmen can ease the younger swimmers' transition.
"When you're dominated with upperclassmen, you can sort of step back and let the machine run," he said. "But when you're dominated by underclassmen, you have to do a lot of teaching constantly for them to learn the process. There's a lot of attention to detail this time of year."
The Bears' meet against Akron Firestone and Rocky River Magnificat on Dec. 6 was postponed.
Trace among leaders for boys swim team
Led by senior and Ohio State signee Thomas Trace, the boys swimming and diving team is chasing its first state championship since 1987 after two consecutive years of having to settle for being the Division I runner-up.
Last season, Trace was state runner-up in the 50 free (20.94) and finished fourth in the 100 backstroke (49.99). He is one of three seniors, along with Ryan Baas and Zach Newcome, and hopes to follow in the footsteps of 2013 graduate Joey Long.
Long, who now swims for Ohio State, won the 200 free state title as both a junior and senior and was state runner-up in the 500 free last year.
"(Trace) is the focus of what we're doing this year," fourth-year coach Mike de Bear said. "He is the cornerstone. Really, all three of (of the seniors) are. We're expecting Thomas to lead the way to hopefully four podium finishes. They can't control what other people do, but I am expecting some big finishes out of these guys. Thomas is the best he's ever been. He's bigger and stronger. I expect him to lead by example."
Newcome was a state qualifier in the 200 free and 400 free relay last season along with 2013 graduates Geoff Dickhaut, Ian Reardon and Dan Sullivan. According to de Bear, Newcome will focus on the distance free events this season, along with junior Corey Miles and sophomores Nebyat Mamo and Colin Reardon.
Colin Reardon is a returning state qualifier, having finished 18th in the 200 IM (1:58.13) last year.
"We're young," said de Bear, whose team has five juniors, eight sophomores and five freshmen. "We'll have to rely on young guys to step up in key spots. We're swimming for relay spots almost every time we're in the water. There are some clearer-cut relays, but they've worked hard. We've not changed anything that we do because of the different makeup of the team."
The rest of the swimmers are juniors Austin Gorski and Ian Watson, sophomores Ethan Fischer, Ian Hamilton, Teddy Khabiri and Chris Walker and freshmen Sebastian Imitola, Andrew Kibbe, Boyd Landis, Parker Neri and Drew Wilson.
"Kibbe is probably the kid who right off the bat has a chance to be a state-type swimmer for us," said de Bear, adding that he will put Kibbe in several events early in the season. "He'll be sneaking into relays pretty early on."
The Bears have four divers in juniors Colin Holstein and Tommy Ward and sophomores Eric Colombo and Grant Jones.
UA has finished second at state behind Cincinnati St. Xavier the past two seasons. The Bears scored 187.5 points at state last year, with St. Xavier scoring 270 as 57 teams scored.
"We can just work as hard as we can and perfect the small things like turns and starts and strokes," Newcome said. "We can't control what they do, but we can control what we do."
UA opened in the Ned Reeb Invitational, placing third (217) behind champion St. Xavier (485) as 44 teams scored.
The Bears' meet against Firestone and Cleveland St. Ignatius on Dec. 6 was postponed.
Girls soccer, volleyball coaches step down
Girls soccer coach Mark Wise and girls volleyball coach Wil Rotruck recently submitted their resignations, according to girls athletics director Jodi Palmer.
Wise resigned Nov. 15 after five seasons and Rotruck stepped down Nov. 18 after just one season "after a mutual agreement that it was time to go in a different direction for the program," Palmer said.
Wise compiled a 49-32-12 record at UA, guiding the Bears to a Division I regional runner-up finish in 2009 and a regional semifinal appearance in 2010.
This past season, UA finished 7-8-2 overall and 2-3-2 in the OCC-Central Division, losing to Watterson 2-0 in the second round of the district tournament.
The girls volleyball team finished 2-20 overall and 1-13 in the OCC-Central this past season.
Rotruck replaced Matt Wion, who remains the boys volleyball coach but now is teaching in Delaware.
Applicants for both positions should send a resume and letter of interest to Palmer at email@example.com by Friday, Dec. 13.