With her college choice long since decided, Kendra Sheehan of the Upper Arlington High School girls swimming and diving team has been focusing fully on the present, so much so that she lost track of time last week.
Told the Division I state meet was a month away before a recent practice, Sheehan caught herself laughing with surprise.
"Oh my goodness, I didn't realize it was so soon," said Sheehan, an Ohio University recruit and three-time state qualifier. "I've set high goals, but more or less when I get there, I just want to be able to beat the people who are next to me. That's what I am really focusing on, outracing the people next to me and out-touching them. It's my last state meet, and there's truly no other meet like it."
Sheehan helped the Golden Bears' 200-yard medley relay to a state championship last year and finished eighth in both the 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle. She has continued to set personal-best times this season, swimming a 51.51 in the 100 free and 56.88 in the 100 back -- times that are .21 and .84 of a second faster, respectively, than she was at last year's state meet.
Sheehan fell short of that 100 back time in the OCC-Central Division meet Jan. 27 at UA, but she is not concerned quite yet. She won the race in 1:01.5 and helped the 200 medley relay finish first (1:50.36) with Morgan Brewer, Erin Reardon and Emma Schueler as the Bears racked up 478 points to easily win their 24th consecutive league championship.
Dublin Coffman (324) placed second, followed by Hilliard Davidson (166), Marysville (126), Central Crossing (71) and Westland (57).
"I've been working a lot on my backstroke so that will help me in the taper part of the season," Sheehan said. "I've been working on my tempo and the second halves of my races, being able to increase my tempo as I go. That's been my issue in the past. Being able to finish the 100 back is the biggest thing I am working on right now."
Other winners for UA were Brewer in the 100 butterfly (1:00.31), Holly Darling in diving (478 points), Alicia Howe in the 500 free (5:24.52) and the 200 free relay of Brewer, Caroline Colombo, Sophia Elliott and Schueler (1:42.12).
Regardless of what Sheehan accomplishes this month, coach Dan Peterkoski thinks Sheehan's best might come in college.
"She is definitely still a diamond in the rough. Hopefully, she can shine even more than she is now," Peterkoski said. "She has an upside to her that we haven't necessarily seen yet. We see a lot of athletes peak during high school, and I don't think she is one of those. She is still figuring things out.
"Physically, she is still developing. She has strength development left in order to utilize (the) natural tools that she has. She has a lot of uncoachables. She walks into a room and the coach will quiver because she has the things you can't coach, (like) size and length. Because of that, she still has more potential to reach."
Boys swimmers edge Coffman for OCC title
While Peterkoski considered the OCC-Central meet a "fine-tuning" event for his team, boys coach Mike de Bear predicted earlier in the week that the boys side would be as competitive as it has been in years.
He was proven right, as UA won only one event but amassed enough second-level points to win its 18th consecutive league title.
Alec Caswell won the 500 free in 4:49.51, and the Bears used six second-place finishes and four third-place efforts to score 391 points and finish ahead of Coffman (345), Davidson (223), Marysville (89) and Central Crossing (83).
Caswell also placed second in the 200 free (1:48.42) and helped the 200 medley relay finish second (1:42.38) with Ted Dimitrov, Luke Landis and Gavin Voss and the 400 free relay to a runner-up finish (3:19.82) with Hayden Jay, Antonio Ventresca and Avery Voss.
"It (was) another chance to race while tired and another competitive meet, the most competitive in my years here that I can remember," de Bear said. "We haven't seen anything like this year. There were years where we won every event in the league. This is probably the strongest competition since (UA) lost to Kilbourne in 1999 or 2000. Our second wave of kids had to swim well to make a difference."
Avery Voss placed second in both the 50 free (22.73) and 100 free (50.42) and the 200 free relay was second (1:31.04) with Jack McHugh, Ventresca and both Voss brothers.
Dimitrov placed third in both the 100 breast (1:02.16) and 200 individual medley (2:05.2). Also finishing third were Jackson Gooding in the 100 back (59.37) and Landis in the 100 fly (55.93).
"That depth is going to serve us well because of all the scorers we have. Not one person is going to carry the team," Gavin Voss said. "This is the time of year where everything is wearing on you and you're ready to start taper season. We're tired, but we're ready for the (postseason)."
Boys basketball team nears showdown
The inside track to the OCC-Central championship could be on the line when the boys basketball team visits Coffman on Saturday, Feb. 3.
The Bears and Shamrocks both are 6-0 in the league entering play Friday, Feb. 2. That night, UA plays host to Westland, which is 0-7 in the league, and Coffman is at home against Marysville, which is in third place at 3-3.
The game against Coffman was postponed Jan. 12 because of bad weather.
Coffman visits UA in the regular-season finale for both teams on Feb. 16.
Ranked fourth in last week's Division I state poll, the Bears were 14-1 overall before playing Westerville Central on Jan. 30. UA went 3-0 last week, posting wins over Westerville North (72-60 on Jan. 23), Davidson (48-36 on Jan. 26) and Eastmoor Academy (45-30 on Jan. 27 in the Jared Sullinger Ohio Scholastic Play-by-Play Classic at Ohio Dominican).
Dane Goodwin had 26 points against Davidson and 25 against North. Max Martz had a game-high 16 points against Eastmoor.
Wrestlers see progress throughout lineup
The wrestling team continues to be strong at the lower weights but dropped two of three duals spanning two days last week, two of which came against OCC-Central rival Marysville.
In the Division I, Region 5-B team dual tournament Jan. 24 at Delaware, the fifth-seeded Bears beat the host and fourth-seeded Pacers 41-30 and fell to the top-seeded Monarchs 44-21.
The next night at home, UA lost to Marysville 47-23 in a league dual to drop to 1-2 in the OCC-Central.
The Bears won seven of eight matches between 106 and 160 pounds against Delaware, and four classes from 138 down both nights against the Monarchs.
"We wrestled well overall (Jan. 24). I wasn't sure we could beat Delaware and we were up 41-3 at one point," coach Matt Stout said. "Marysville is better than us, but we won four of the first seven and five (matches) overall. We competed well. We made a few mistakes here and there, but we wrestled hard, and that's what's important."
According to Stout, the Bears could get a boost in mid-February with the expected return of senior heavyweight Jack Stephens. Stephens has been out since being injured during a Sept. 15 football game against Westerville South and was cleared to begin practice last week.
"I had written that off," Stout said. "For him to have a chance to compete on senior night (Feb. 15 at home against Westland) and in the postseason, good for him."
Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, hockey and swimming & diving teams:
*Feb. 2 -- Home vs. Westland. The Golden Bears defeated the Cougars 83-32 on Dec. 22.
*Feb. 3 -- At Dublin Coffman in makeup from Jan. 12
Feb. 6 -- At Westerville South
*Feb. 2 -- At Westland. The Golden Bears defeated the Cougars 70-20 on Dec. 22.
Feb. 6 -- Home vs. Westerville South
Feb. 7 -- At *Coffman with Central Crossing, Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Franklin Heights and Grove City
*Feb. 2 -- Olentangy Liberty at OhioHealth Ice Haus
*Feb. 3 -- New Albany at Chiller Easton
*Feb. 4 -- Olentangy Orange at OhioHealth Ice Haus
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 3 -- Upper Arlington Invitational