Some high school swimming and diving teams treat their league meet as preparation for the postseason, at least in part.

Some high school swimming and diving teams treat their league meet as preparation for the postseason, at least in part.

While Pickerington High School North's boys and girls are confident they will have a successful February, the Panthers treated the OCC-Ohio Division meet Jan. 27 and 28 at Thomas Worthington as its own entity.

"To us, it is a whole different thing," coach Ben Canini said. "It gives everybody on our team an opportunity to score points. It gives everybody on our team the opportunity to be a part of the victory. Some of the kids might taper and shave for this, then again for sectionals. There's a lot of pride in our program for this."

The Panthers' boys scored 365 points to win their second consecutive league championship, ahead of Gahanna (227), Lancaster (211), Grove City (151), Reynoldsburg (116), Pickerington Central (80) and Newark (5).

The girls' string of three consecutive league titles was snapped by Gahanna, which scored 241 points to the Panthers' 238.5. They were followed by Central (220), Grove City (198), Reynoldsburg (174.5), Lancaster (126) and Newark (1).

"We felt the whole day that we were doing what we needed to do to win," said senior Paul Hintz, who won the 50-yard freestyle (22.51 seconds) and 100 free (48.94) and was part of the winning 200 medley (1:41.47) and 200 free (1:33.76) relays. "There were times we might not have won an event, but I don't think we ever thought we were going to lose."

Andrew Martin won the 200 individual medley (2:03.22), Jacob Griffith won the 100 butterfly (54.92) and Justin Mathews won the 100 breaststroke (1:04.77). The girls got wins from Sara Sams in the 100 breast (1:10.71) and the 200 free relay (1:45.72).

North and Central will compete in a Division I sectional Feb. 11 at Upper Arlington. The winner of each event at UA qualifies for the district meet Feb. 18 at Ohio State. In addition, 27 at-large district berths will be awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites. Divers do not compete until the district meet.

The Panthers have one regular-season meet remaining, against Lancaster on Friday, Feb. 3, at Lancaster YMCA, the home pool for both teams. North's boys are 4-0 in dual meets this season; the girls are 3-1.

"We thought we had a great shot coming into (the OCC-Ohio meet), and we know we still have a strong team for the rest of the season," Canini said. "Hopefully this is just the tip of what we can accomplish in February."

•Central coach Nicole Miller admitted the Tigers girls were trying to figure out how they finished third after being neck-and-neck with Gahanna and North throughout the meet.

"We had the lead at one point, they (Gahanna) took it and it went back and forth from there," Miller said. "We didn't even think Gahanna was going to be a competitor for this. We're kind of stunned. But the girls did great all day. We started winning the 200 medley relay (1:56.45 to 1:57.03 for runner-up Reynoldsburg). We had to take that and we did. It was close, but then every event after that everybody was working. They knew they had to get some sort of points."

The Tigers got wins from Lindsay Inkrott in the 200 free (2:05.14), Ashley Stewart in the 50 free (26.28), Maddie Martin in the 100 fly (59.67) and 100 free (56.45) and the 400 free relay (3:57.27). Martin, a junior, is a two-time defending state champion in the 100 fly.

No Central boys finished in the top three of an event. Miller plans to switch some of their events for the postseason, sending Zak Duncan to the 200 free after he swam the 50 and 100 free during the regular season, Matthias Spiedel to the 200 free and Atticus Murphy to the 500 free. Spiedel and Murphy concentrated on 100- and 200-yard events during the regular season.

The next few weeks, other than a dual meet Friday, Feb. 3, against Olentangy Liberty, will include that acclimation and tapering after a busy January.

"We joke about what they're not allowed to do - go up stairs, open doors, stuff like that. Basically don't exert much energy," Miller said. "It's fun for them, and they like to see their times drop. It can get frustrating during the season when they put in so much work and don't see your times go anywhere because their bodies are tired. They get very excited for this part of the season."