In its latest display of its depth, the Upper Arlington High School girls swimming and diving team took the top four spots in the 500-yard freestyle in the Division I district meet Feb. 15 at Ohio State.
Elizabeth Weldon won the event in 4 minutes, 56.59 seconds, edging Jenny Smith (4:57.68), Katie Trace (4:57.89) and Julie Dierker (4:59.35), but had the third-fastest qualifying time of the group. Weldon and Smith each earned an automatic berth to the state meet Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22, at Branin Natatorium in Canton and Trace and Dierker both earned at-large berths.
Weldon considered the group's performance a statement, even though the Golden Bears weren't threatened in winning their 15th consecutive district championship. They scored 522 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Thomas Worthington (204) as 24 teams scored.
"Our distance unit is so strong this year," said Weldon, who finished fourth at state last year in the 500 free (4:57.37) after winning the district title (4:56.81). "We all wanted to not really beat each other, but for every one of us to go out and accomplish our goals. We wanted to make a statement for Upper Arlington, specifically our distance swimmers."
UA advanced 12 individuals to state in 10 events, including all three relays. Gracie Long won the 100 free (51.5) and 200 free (1:50.89), Erin Sheehan won the 100 butterfly (56.75), the 400 free relay of Long, Sheehan, Smith and Grace Van Fossen finished first (3:31.34) and the 200 free relay with Alexandra Hedden, Long, Smith and Van Fossen won (1:36.78).
Weldon is seeded fourth in the 500 free at state. Long is seeded fifth in the 100 free and eighth in the 200 free.
"I am trying to race as hard as I can and get myself in a good place," Long said. "I am really just a competitive person. My entire family is. I love just racing everyone and being the best that I can be."
The top two placers 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 times statewide.
Also placing second for the Bears were Van Fossen in the 100 free (52.01), Weldon in the 200 free (1:50.89) and the 200 medley relay of Hedden, Jamie Krupp, Sheehan and Betsy Trace (1:46.24).
UA's other state qualifiers were Hedden in the 50 free (third, 24.24), Krupp in the 100 breaststroke (third, 1:06), Betsy Trace in the 100 fly (third, 57.86), Dierker in the 200 IM (fourth, 2:05.96), Van Fossen in the 200 free (fourth, 1:53.53), Anna Linzell in the 50 free (fifth, 24.33), Sheehan in the 100 free (fifth, 52.44), Katie Trace in the 200 individual medley (fifth, 2:06.52), Emma Lammers in the 100 fly (sixth, 58.4) and Meghan Wilson in the 100 breast (eighth, 1:06.92).
"Seeing the girls swim the way we did today really motivates us," Weldon said. "We're all just going out and trying to get more lifetime bests. We can accomplish some great things (in Canton) if we do that."
UA saw its streak of consecutive state titles come to an end last season at eight. Cincinnati Ursuline won the championship with 234 points and the Bears placed second (215) as 55 teams scored.
Boys team places second at district
St. Charles landed the last punch in a back-and-forth boys district meet, finishing third in the 400 free relay (3:12.02) ahead of fifth-place UA (3:14.06) to snap the Bears' three-year streak of district championships.
The Cardinals totaled 304 points, holding off runner-up UA (287) as 25 teams scored.
UA had taken the lead, albeit temporarily, when Zach Newcome won the 500 free in 4:38.78. He placed second to Lancaster's Ryan DePietro (4:35.61) but was awarded the district title after DePietro was disqualified for wearing a non-sanctioned cap.
"I told myself it could be my last 500 and I had to go full-tilt. I had no idea I won until I was called up to get my medal," said Newcome, who earlier in the meet had finished eighth in the 200 free (1:46.8) to fall short of an at-large state berth. "I was so annoyed with how I swam in the 200 that doing well in the 500 was something I needed, something I wanted really bad."
Thomas Trace won the 50 free (20.67) and 100 free (district-meet record 50.02). Trace, who is seeded first in the 50 free at state and second in the 100 free, also helped the 200 free relay (1:26.93) and 200 medley relay (1:37.56) place third and earn at-large state berths.
"Time-wise, I'm right about where I want to be," said Trace, who placed second in the 50 free (20.94) and fourth in the 100 free (49.99) at state last year.
"Being almost as fast right now as I was at state last year, I'll take that."
Also qualifying for state were Colin Reardon in the 200 IM (first, 1:53.22) and 100 backstroke (fourth, 52.14), Ryan Baas in the 100 breast (fifth, 59.91) and the 400 free relay.
Reardon also was on the 200 free relay and 400 free relay.