It's not that the Upper Arlington High School boys swimming and diving team is trying to pull off some kind of massive turnaround.

It's not that the Upper Arlington High School boys swimming and diving team is trying to pull off some kind of massive turnaround.

The Golden Bears have won 15 consecutive league championships, and 18 in the past 19 years, and have been Division I district runners-up to St. Charles each of the past two seasons.

What is motivating UA this season is that no Bears competed in championship events in the state meet last year. Their best finishes came from their 200-yard medley relay and 400 freestyle relay, both of which finished 10th.

Senior Colin Reardon was on both of those relays and had UA's best individual finish, placing 12th in the 100 backstroke.

The top eight swimmers in each state event make the championship finals. The next eight compete in consolation finals.

"I tell these kids to live with a chip on their shoulder in everything they do. People who are content are the ones who don't win anymore," said sixth-year coach Mike de Bear, whose team opened Dec. 4 with a 111-61 home win over Olentangy Orange. "We have some pretty big goals. It's different with two of our best five kids being out. We'll lie in the weeds a little bit ... but we'll be ready to go with the team that will be there in February."

According to de Bear, senior Ian Hamilton is injured and is not expected to compete for at least the next few weeks. Junior Andrew Kibbe is recovering from a broken foot, and junior Parker Neri is out with a torn meniscus.

While Kibbe competed this past weekend, de Bear does not expect Neri back until January.

Kibbe and Neri both are part of a distance unit that also includes senior Nebyat Mamo, sophomores Will Dierker and Tommy Weimer and freshman Alec Caswell.

"(Sophomore season) is the year that kids take leaps traditionally in our program," de Bear said.

"I really like the distance group. We are a bunch of hard workers," Mamo said. "It's more about hard work and less on talent."

Ethan Fischer and Teddy Khabiri round out UA's five-member senior class.

The rest of the roster consists of juniors Sebastian Imitola, Boyd Landis, Iain McRae, Alex Rabe, Will Sears and Drew Wilson, sophomores Ted Dimitrov, Jack McHugh and Gavin Voss and freshmen Will Galetka, Josh Gorski, Reed Ray, Daniel Seely and Ben Staton.

UA, which defeated Olentangy Liberty 122-64 on Dec. 5, will play host to Akron Firestone and Cleveland St. Ignatius on Friday, Dec. 11, before participating in the Ned Reeb Invitational on Saturday, Dec. 12, at Ohio State.

The Bears scored 361.5 points in last year's league meet to finish well ahead of runner-up Hilliard Davidson (193). They placed second (288.5) at district behind champion St. Charles (403) and finished 17th (41) at state behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (335).

UA is seeking its first state title since 1987. The Bears placed second to St. Xavier in 2013.

"We want, as a team, to be top five at state. We want all of our relays in finals and we want at least two of them to be top eight," Fischer said. "We want to be top eight in everything. When you're in the water, that motivates you. It's all about keeping this tradition going. We want to keep those alumni proud of us. That's a big motivating factor."

Girls swim team looks to defend title

The girls team finds itself with plenty of spots to fill as it begins defense of its 10th Division I state championship.

UA, which also won the state title in 2013, lost only four swimmers to graduation, but quality greatly exceeded quantity. Among the Bears' losses was Gracie Long, who won the 200 free championship and was on the first-place 200 free and 400 free relays last year, and won two individual titles and was on seven championship relays in her career. Long now swims for the University of Louisville.

Senior Erin Sheehan and junior Katie Trace lead the returnees. Sheehan was on the 200 free and 400 free relays last year and was sixth in the 100 butterfly, and Trace was state runner-up in the 500 free, placed seventh in the 200 individual medley and was on the 400 free relay.

UA scored 285.5 points at state to edge runner-up Cincinnati St. Ursula (270.5).

"Some years it falls together easier than others," said 13th-year coach Dan Peterkoski, whose team defeated Orange 119-54 in its opener Dec. 4 and beat Liberty 132-54 on Dec. 5. "We just have a lot of key parts that graduated last year, so in the immediate future, we're trying to figure out what the possibilities are (and) to fill some of the roles that we lost through graduation. We have a lot of high-quality pieces. We need to figure out how to put the puzzle together."

Sheehan is one of four seniors for UA, along with Sarah Dilz, Chloe Magyari and Olivia March.

Trace, who is among nine juniors, already has qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in the 400 IM next summer in Omaha, Neb.

"(Peterkoski) is really working with me so I can try for the (500 free) state record (of 4:44.4)," said Trace, whose personal-best time in the 500 free (4:49.22) is second all-time in the program, .29 of a second behind 2011 graduate Abby Chin. "(As far as being in) the 200 free or the 200 IM ... I don't know which one yet. It depends on who else can fill those spots. I am really flexible as to how that goes.

"The relays, last year I was thrown on the 200 free at the end of the season. I had never really gone from the 500 right into the 200. It was something to get used to."

Sheehan is focusing on a trip to state in the 100 fly. A win last summer over four-time 100 fly Division I state champion Maddie Martin, a 2013 Pickerington Central graduate who now swims at Auburn University, increased her optimism.

Sheehan's best time in the 100 fly is 53.44, a tenth of a second behind Martin's state record set in 2011.

"That was exciting to me," Sheehan said. "If I beat her, maybe I can get that record."

According to Peterkoski, other contributors will include juniors Brooke Brown, Grace Cullen, Anna Fischer, Emma Linzell, Emily Long and Julie Trace, sophomores Hannah Caldwell, Abby Dunasky, Dakota Elliott, Kendra Sheehan and Sidney Rehl and freshmen Anna Davies, Grace McCarty and Emily Reardon.

UA will play host to Akron Firestone and Rocky River Magnificat on Friday, Dec. 11, before participating in the Ned Reeb Invitational on Saturday, Dec. 12, at Ohio State.

Winslow expected to lead girls divers

UA has six divers this year, led by junior Ellie Winslow, who came up one spot shy of advancing to state.

Winslow finished fifth of 35 competitors at district a year ago, 0.75 of a point shy of New Albany's Georgina Milne, who secured the fourth and final state berth.

The other divers for the girls team are sophomores Lola Kroll and Molly O'Connor and freshman Holly Darling. The boys team has two divers in sophomores Finn McCarthy and Josh Plahuta.

The divers are coached by Ryan Wilson.