Members of the Upper Arlington High School girls swimming and diving team shed a few tears when they finished as Division I state runners-up for the second consecutive year.
But like last year, when their eight-year string of state championships was snapped, the Golden Bears didn't go down without a fight.
UA amassed 264 points, 17 fewer than champion Cincinnati Ursuline, as 52 teams scored in the state meet that concluded Feb. 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. Along the way, the Bears set the state record while winning the 200-yard freestyle relay and recorded nine other top-eight finishes.
"It's bittersweet," coach Dan Peterkoski said. "You can't fault any of the efforts. If you want to be a championship program, there is no such thing as rebuilding. You have to keep bringing those underclassmen along. That's something we try to do. It's something we've been successful at the last few years. Hopefully, we'll be able to continue."
The Bears are losing seven seniors but expect to return many of their top competitors from state. Juniors Alexandra Hedden, Gracie Long and Grace Van Fossen teamed with senior Jenny Smith on the record-setting 200 free relay, which won in 1 minute, 33.87 seconds, breaking the 1:34.02 record set Feb. 21 by Ursuline in the state preliminaries.
Smith placed second in the 200 individual medley (2:02.6) and third in the 500 free (4:52.97) and Long was second in the 100 free (49.93) and fourth in the 200 free (1:48.67).
The 400 free relay placed second (3:25.56) with sophomore Erin Sheehan, Van Fossen, Smith and Long, and the 200 medley relay of seniors Jamie Krupp and Betsy Trace, Hedden and Sheehan was fourth (1:46.16).
The other top-eight finishes were turned in by Van Fossen in the 100 free (51.37, sixth), senior Julie Dierker in the 500 free (5:02.49, eighth) and senior Meghan Wilson in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.98, eighth).
Also competing at state were senior Elizabeth Weldon in the 500 free (4:55.9, ninth) and 200 free (1:54.58, 18th), Hedden in the 50 free (10th, 24.19), freshman Katie Trace in the 200 IM (2:06.62, 10th) and 500 free (4:59.33, 11th), Trace in the 100 butterfly (56.94, 11th), freshman Anna Linzell in the 50 free (24.38, 13th), Van Fossen in the 200 free (1:52.68, 13th), Dierker in the 200 IM (2:09.87, 14th), Sheehan in the 100 free (52.54, 14th), Krupp in the 100 breast (1:07.51, 15th) and juniors Emma Lammers in the 100 fly (59.81, 22nd).
Krupp and Wilson have signed to swim at Wright State University, Betsy Trace has signed with Eastern Michigan, Weldon has signed with Davidson College and Dierker has committed to Kenyon.
"I needed to work hard," Smith said. "I have a freshman, Katie Trace, who has been helping to push me all year. (Peterkoski) always says the best people around the state are practicing with them in competition. We go day-in and day-out together and that is what helps me."
Peterkoski is as equally optimistic about Long, who also was state runner-up in the 100 free as a sophomore.
"She's fabulous," Peterkoski said. "I truly believe there's a lot more in there, and we're going to work hard in the next 12 months to try to get it out."
UA continued its domination of central Ohio this season. The Bears won their 15th consecutive district championship Feb. 15 at Ohio State, scoring 522.5 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Thomas Worthington (204) as 24 teams scored.
UA scored 494 points in their home sectional Feb. 8, easily beating runner-up Watterson (153) as 13 teams scored. In the OCC-Central Division meet Jan. 25, the Bears scored 470 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Olentangy Liberty (229) as well as Thomas (205), Dublin Coffman (131.5), Hilliard Davidson (119), Marysville (64.5), Central Crossing (48).
Talent expected to return for boys team
Boys coach Mike de Bear choked up after the state meet while recounting senior Thomas Trace winning the state championship in the 50 free (20.61) and finishing second in the 100 backstroke (49.36).
But moments later, de Bear's smile returned while noting that the swimmers filling six of 12 spots on his relays at state are expected to return.
Those swimmers are sophomores Ethan Fischer (200 free), Ian Hamilton (200 medley, 400 free) and Colin Reardon (200 medley, 400 free) and freshman Andrew Kibbe (400 free).
Trace, an Ohio State signee, teamed with Reardon, senior Ryan Baas and Hamilton to finish ninth in the 200 medley relay (1:35.71) and teamed with Baas, senior Zach Newcome and Fischer in the 200 free relay, which was disqualified in preliminaries.
Also competing at state were Newcome in the 500 free (4:37.29, seventh), the 400 free relay of Kibbe, Newcome, Reardon and Hamilton (3:14.39, 14th), Reardon in the 200 IM (1:57.26, 16th) and 100 back (53.04, 21st) and Baas in the 100 breast (1:00.41, 19th).
UA finished ninth (74) at state behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (255) as 61 teams scored.
"Our last relay (at state) had two sophomores and a freshman on it, so to get as far with them as we did, I'll take it," de Bear said, referring to the 400 free relay. "We lose great seniors (in Baas, Newcome and Trace), but these young kids need to remember this and use that energy when we get back in the pool."
Trace was district champion in both the 50 free and 100 free, setting a district-meet record in the latter (50.0).
UA placed second (322) in its home sectional behind St. Charles (340.5) as 11 teams scored and, a week later, saw its three-year streak of district championships come to an end at the hands of the Cardinals. The Bears scored 287 points at district to place second behind St. Charles (304) as 25 teams scored.
"We have some promising young swimmers, and so do they," de Bear said of St. Charles. "We're probably going to be competing against each other for a few years."
UA finished first (372) in the OCC-Central meet, finishing well ahead of runner-up Liberty (260) as well as Coffman (206), Davidson (151), Marysville (145), Thomas (126) and Central Crossing (28).