Six hours of training Dec. 28 and 29 will introduce at least some of the Upper Arlington High School boys and girls swimming and diving teams to Branin Natatorium, the site of the state meet since 1976.

Six hours of training Dec. 28 and 29 will introduce at least some of the Upper Arlington High School boys and girls swimming and diving teams to Branin Natatorium, the site of the state meet since 1976.

For many of the Golden Bears, the facility is a second home. The girls team returns nine state qualifiers, and the boys bring back five.

Senior Katie Trace, the defending Division I girls state champion in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle, doesn't get as nervous there as she used to. Not only is she a three-time state qualifier, but she also competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 400 individual medley this past summer in Omaha, Nebraska.

"Going to a big meet like that really makes me feel more at home at home meets or even at the state meet," said Trace, an Ohio State recruit. "When I was younger, especially at my first time at Canton, I was really scared because of the crowds of people. It is so loud, especially with our (fans') seating being right across the pool. I was looking at them, sweating with butterflies and my stomach churning. That does not always result in the best swims, but I think it definitely would help now. Now, it motivates me. I've been there. I think now I internalize it and use it as good pressure."

That is 14th-year coach Dan Peterkoski's hope for his entire team, which will try to win its third consecutive state title and 12th overall with nine seniors and a promising group of underclassmen whom he says needs to step up quickly.

"(A large senior class) is nice for the immediate future. However, we need to work hard to get our freshmen, sophomores and juniors ready to fill a lot of shoes quickly," Peterkoski said. "Those freshmen need to learn quickly. If we don't have quick growth out of that class, the chances of our continuing this success are going to diminish."

Other returning state qualifiers are seniors Anna Fischer, Anna Linzell, Emily Long, Julie Trace and Ellie Winslow and juniors Hannah Caldwell, Dakota Elliott and Kendra Sheehan.

Winslow, a Duke University recruit, was last year's state runner-up in diving, while Elliott, Linzell and Katie Trace were on the champion 200 free relay.

UA scored 239 points to clinch the state title ahead of runner-up Mason (229) as 56 teams scored.

"I think I have learned how to train better, and I have learned how to push myself harder in order to be successful," said Elliott, a two-time state qualifier who was third in the 100 breaststroke at state last year, one spot behind Caldwell. "My freshman year, I got better just because the training level was so much higher than it was coming from the (Upper Arlington) Swim Club, but I have learned how to train harder and need to continue to push myself harder to be successful and get better."

Rounding out the roster are seniors Morgan Brewer, Brooke Brown, Grace Cullen and Molly Dierker, juniors Abby Dunasky, Lola Kroll, Molly O'Connor and Sydney Rehl, sophomores Anna Davies, Holly Darling, Grace McCarty and Emily Reardon and freshmen Julia Fidanza, Catalina Fernandez, Abby Hendershot, Alicia Howe, Katie McKenzie, Erin Reardon and Lindsay Rush.

Darling, Fidanza, Kroll and O'Connor are divers.

The Bears are 4-0 in dual meets, having defeated Olentangy Orange (119-64 on Dec. 2), Olentangy Liberty (111-75 on Dec. 3), Rocky River Magnificat (134-51 on Dec. 9) and Columbus Academy (124.5-61.5 on Dec. 10).

Neri among leaders for boys swim team

University of Texas recruit Parker Neri leads the boys swimming and diving team's returning state qualifiers, having been on the third-place 400 free relay and fifth-place 200 free relay as well as finishing fifth in both the 200 and 500 free.

Neri, who missed the early portion of last season with a torn meniscus, chose the Longhorns in early November over Ohio State.

"My legs are 10 times stronger than they were last year," Neri said. "My turns are feeling a lot better. My kick is feeling a lot better. Below my waist, I feel better and I am getting a lot stronger."

Neri is one of the reasons UA again expects to be paced by its distance swimmers. Senior Andrew Kibbe, junior Tommy Weimer and sophomore Alec Caswell also qualified for state in the 500 free.

"We've had great anchors over the years. It is good going into a meet knowing you have guys who can contend against anyone in the state," seventh-year coach Mike de Bear said. "Sprinting is where we need to get better. Gavin (Voss, a junior and the Bears' other state qualifier) will be the leader of that group. The 100 free and 50 free are where we need the most work, but that's not to say there isn't talent there, and who knows who will end up there?"

Voss expected to swim the 50 free and 100 butterfly to begin the season, as well as the 200 free and medley relays.

"We've always been deep in the distance events, and this year in sprinting we are looking to have sophomores develop and step up," Voss said, citing technique and overall strength as his top attributes. "I have gotten a lot stronger with weightlifting and overall just getting bigger. My technique in the 100 butterfly, especially my underwater, is the key component."

The Bears finished fifth (138) at state last season behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (398) as 51 teams scored, a year after placing 17th with no swimmers in championship heats.

UA is seeking to snap a three-year district title drought, having finished second to St. Charles the past two seasons.

Rounding out the roster are senior Will Sears, juniors Will Dierker, Ted Dimitrov, Finn McCarthy, Jack McHugh and Brad Weimer, sophomores Will Galetka, Josh Gorski, Luke Landis, Reed Ray, Daniel Seely and Ben Staton and freshmen Jack Meyer, Jimmy Ravine, Brandon Vanderhorst, Antonio Ventresca and Brody Widman.

McCarthy and Brad Weimer are divers.

UA is 2-2 in dual meets, with wins over Orange (119-64 on Dec. 2) and Liberty (106-79 on Dec. 3) and losses to Cleveland St. Ignatius (95-85 on Dec. 9) and Academy (92-84 on Dec. 10).

Boys soccer coach steps down

Opting to spend more time with his growing family, boys soccer coach Mic Rogers recently resigned after four seasons.

Rogers and his wife are expecting their second child.

"It was a very difficult decision, but I need to spend some more time at home," Rogers said.

Rogers was 32-29-13 overall and 12-10-4 in the OCC-Central Division during his tenure at UA. The Bears lost in Division I district semifinals each of the past three seasons, including 3-1 to Dublin Jerome on Oct. 26.

This past season, 11 seniors helped UA finish 10-5-4 overall and 3-1-1 in the league. The Bears lost to Dublin Coffman 1-0 on Oct. 13 in a match that decided the OCC-Central championship.

Applicants should contact athletics director Tony Pusateri at (614) 487-5210 or tpusateri@uaschools.org.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 2 -- vs. Olentangy Orange

Dec. 3 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty

Dec. 9 -- vs. Cleveland St. Ignatius and Rocky River Magnificat

Dec. 10 -- vs. Columbus Academy

Dec. 17 -- Ned Reeb Invitational at Ohio State

Jan. 6 -- vs. Dublin Coffman

Jan. 7 -- at Mason

Jan. 13 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson

Jan. 20 -- at St. Charles with Columbus School for Girls

Jan. 21 -- vs. Olentangy

Jan. 27 -- OCC diving meet at New Albany

Jan. 28 -- OCC-Central at home

Feb. 4 -- Upper Arlington Invitational at home

Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, hockey and wrestling teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 16 -- At Hilliard Davidson

Dec. 21 -- At Westerville Central

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 16 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson

Dec. 17 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central

Dec. 21 -- Home vs. Westerville Central

GYMNASTICS

Dec. 21 -- At Worthington Kilbourne

HOCKEY

*Dec. 17 -- Thomas Worthington at OhioHealth Ice Haus

*Dec. 18 -- Olentangy Orange at Chiller North

*Dec. 21 -- Olentangy Liberty at Chiller North

WRESTLING

Dec. 17 -- Firebird Wrestling Classic at Kettering Fairmont

*League contest