With just four individual qualifiers across five events as well as all three relays representing the Upper Arlington High School girls swimming and diving team at the Division I state meet this week, coach Dan Peterkoski is not optimistic that his team will capture a fourth consecutive state championship.
"We probably won't be in contention," he said.
But the talent the Golden Bears are sending to Branin Natatorium in Canton is, at least on paper, capable of racking up points.
Dakota Elliott is the top seed in the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, .05 of a second) and the third seed in the 500 freestyle (4:52.82), the 400 free relay is seeded third (3:27.45) and the 200 free relay is seeded fifth (1:36.59).
Elliott won both the 200 IM and 500 free in the district meet that concluded Feb. 17 at Ohio University. The 400 free relay pulled out a close victory and the 200 free relay finished second as UA scored 274 points to fend off runner-up New Albany (267) and win its 19th consecutive district title as 30 teams scored.
The 400 free relay of Caroline Colombo, Elliott, Erin Reardon and Kendra Sheehan won in 3:27.45, .39 of a second ahead of the Eagles. UA led the meet by one point entering that relay, meaning the winner of the race would win the district title.
"This one's really special," said Sheehan, who qualified for state individually by finishing third in the 100 backstroke (56.21) and fourth in the 100 free (51.89) and is seeded ninth in both events at state. "We knew we had to push harder than we normally do, and the fact that it was so close in the end made it so special. We know their better swimmers. It's different than a dual meet in December (UA defeated New Albany 100-83 on Dec. 9) than when we all taper, but we knew they'd put up a fight."
At district, the top two placers in each swimming event automatically advanced to state. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.
Swimming preliminaries at state are Friday, Feb. 23, and the finals are the next day.
Other state qualifiers were the 200 medley relay (1:46.41, fourth) of Morgan Brewer, Erin Reardon, Emma Schueler and Sheehan, and divers Holly Darling and Julia Fidanza. The diving final is Thursday, Feb. 22, at Branin Natatorium.
Elliott set a meet record in the 200 IM, breaking her own mark of 2:00.32 from last year.
"I haven't been feeling super great in my swims (because) I am still waiting to taper and shave. I know I still have a lot of time to drop," Elliott said. "It's an in-between feeling. I am not quite tapered, but I am not training really hard."
Colombo, Dakota Elliott, Sophia Elliott and Schueler were on the second-place 200 free relay.
Peterkoski thought plugging Colombo, a freshman, into the second leg of the 400 free relay might have made a key difference.
"Caroline's time in the 100 forced my hand. The way she swam on that relay potentially was the reason we won," Peterkoski said. "You have to lean on your seniors to do their job, but for a freshman to be in that position and perform the way she did was special to watch."
Caswell leads boys swim team to state
Alec Caswell of the boys swimming and diving team finished third in both the 200 free (1:42.51) and 500 free (4:38.66) in the Division I district meet, leading UA to 171 points and a fourth-place finish behind champion Dublin Jerome (303) as 29 teams scored.
Caswell is one of two individual state qualifiers for the Bears, along with Luke Landis, who placed sixth in the 500 free (4:42.85).
The 200 free relay of Avery Voss, Gavin Voss, Jack McHugh and Antonio Ventresca finished fifth (1:28.36) and earned an at-large state berth.
Landis dropped 17 seconds in the 500 free between a home sectional Feb. 10 and the district meet.
"Today was a learning experience moving forward," coach Mike de Bear said. "It was a good, solid day. Fourth overall is what we are. We have good swims coming (this) week. We swam well; not well enough to get all our relays there, but this is the youngest team I've had. It's a big meet. They'll benefit from this."
Caswell said he is embracing his leadership role, having succeeded current University of Texas swimmer Parker Neri as the team's top competitor in distance events.
"It's definitely been interesting to do this without Parker. He was someone who would be out ahead and someone you could push yourself with. I have to do this by myself now," Caswell said. "There's no more looking ahead for someone to race. You have to do it yourself, go out and grab it.
"Even the past couple years, we broke into two distance lanes most days so I'd be racing Parker and have another guy or two behind me. Leading a lane hasn't been an adjustment for me. It's more of a shift personally to make sure I'm going as fast as I need to all the time."
Boys basketball team wins league title
Fresh off winning its third consecutive OCC-Central Division championship, the boys basketball team opens the Division I district tournament facing the possibility of playing two consecutive home games against the two of the bottom four seeds in the 48-team tournament.
The second-seeded Bears, who are 20-1 overall and finished 10-0 in the league, will play host to 45th-seeded Franklin Heights in a first-round game Friday, Feb. 23. The winner plays host to 47th-seeded Whetstone in the second round March 2.
UA, which was tied for third with Huber Heights Wayne in last week's Division I state poll, was voted the top seed in the tournament by 12 of the other 47 teams but fell 43 votes shy of Pickerington North.
UA clinched the outright league title with a 44-42 win over visiting Dublin Coffman on Feb. 16. The Bears ended the game on an 8-0 run, capped by Sammy Sass' 3-pointer with 11 seconds left.
Coffman finished second in the OCC-Central at 8-2, having lost two games to UA by a combined five points.
Dane Goodwin's buzzer-beating 3-pointer Feb. 3 gave the Bears a 44-41 win over the Shamrocks.
Wrestlers prepare for home sectional
The wrestling team will play host to a 10-team Division I sectional Saturday, Feb. 24, hoping to match or exceed the 12 district qualifiers it had a year ago.
The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby.
Rounding out the sectional are Chillicothe, Coffman, Grove City, Licking Heights, Olentangy Orange, Pickerington Central, Reynoldsburg, Teays Valley and Worthington Kilbourne.
UA finished the regular season with a 64-9 win over Westland on Feb. 15 to go 2-3 in the OCC-Central.
The Bears won five contested matches and five more by forfeit. Among UA's wins was Jack Stephens' pin of Jose Martinez at heavyweight in 1:20.
That was Stephens' first match of the season after he was injured during a football game Sept. 15 against Westerville South.
Girls basketball team set to face Warriors
The girls basketball team will try to advance to its fifth Division I district semifinal in six seasons when it plays host to 31st-seeded Westerville North in a second-round game Thursday, Feb. 22.
The seventh-seeded Bears improved to 18-5 with a 69-29 win over 35th-seeded Grove City in the first round Feb. 17 at home. Kileigh Casey and Macy Spielman each scored 22 points, representing a career high for Casey, as UA led just 14-13 after the first quarter but outscored the Greyhounds 21-2 in the second to pull away.
The UA-North winner will play sixth-seeded Northland or 18th-seeded Thomas Worthington in a district semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 28, at a neutral site to be determined. The Bears lost to Northland 46-35 on Dec. 9. The district final is March 3 at Ohio Dominican University.
Hockey team shuts out Elks
After putting 52 shots on goal in its district tournament opener, the hockey team will face third-seeded St. Charles in a quarterfinal Saturday, Feb. 24, at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
Jake Evans, Jack Lawless and Jamie Schuman all scored in fifth-seeded UA's 3-0 win over 14th-seeded Centerville in a second-round game Feb. 17 at Chiller North. The Bears outshot the Elks 52-5 in improving to 15-14-1-2.
UA split four regular-season games with St. Charles. In two Capital Hockey Conference-Red Division games, the Bears lost to the Cardinals 2-1 on Jan. 5 but defeated them by the same score Jan. 28.
The UA-St. Charles winner will play top-seeded Jerome or seventh-seeded Springboro in a district semifinal Sunday, Feb. 25, at the Ice Haus. That winner advances to the district final March 3 at the Ice Haus.
The Bears are 0-2 against Jerome this season, losing 5-0 on Dec. 23 and 2-1 in overtime Jan. 27, but defeated Springboro 3-2 in a shootout Nov. 26.
Gymnastics team seeks state berth
The gymnastics team will seek its first representation since 2015 in either the state team meet or the state individual meet when it competes in the 33-team district meet Saturday, Feb. 24, at Kilbourne.
The top three teams advance to the state team meet March 2 at Hilliard Bradley, while the top eight individuals in each event and the all-around advance to the state individual meet March 3 at Bradley.
@ThisWeekDaveAt a glance
Below are the members of the Upper Arlington boys and girls swimming & diving teams who competed at district but did not qualify for state:
BOYS -- Hunter Dean: 100 back (57.12, 24th), 100 fly (56.04, 20th); Will Dierker: 500 free (4:46.42, ninth); Ted Dimitrov: 100 breast (1:00.01, 11th), 200 IM (2:00.02, 13th); Jackson Gooding: 100 back (57.62, 26th); Hayden Jay: 200 free (1:47.29, 13th); Luke Landis: 100 fly (53,79, tied for ninth); Jack McHugh: 50 free (22.54, 23rd), 100 free (49.32, 16th); Jimmy Ravine: 100 breast (1:02.83, 19th), 200 IM (2:07.83, 28th); Reed Ray: 100 breast (1:02.63, 18th), 200 IM (2:01.54, 14th); Thomas Ray: 500 free (4:55.69, 17th); Antonio Ventresca: 200 free (1:48.23, 14th); Avery Voss: 50 free (22.22, tied for 13th), 100 free (47.95, 10th); Gavin Voss: 50 free (22.82, tied for 27th), 100 fly (54.54, 12th); 200 medley relay (1:39.63, ninth); 400 free relay (3:15.82, fifth)
GIRLS -- Morgan Brewer: 50 free (25.43, 27th), 100 fly (58.48, 11th); Caroline Colombo: 50 free (24.65, 16th), 100 free (53.04, 15th); Abby Dunasky: 200 free (1:59.25, 16th), 500 free (5:13.32, seventh); Sophia Elliott: 100 free (54.56, 25th), 200 free (1:58.32, 12th); Maddy Heck: Diving (130.35, 26th); Abby Hendershot: 200 free (2:01.63, 22nd), 500 free (5:27.52, 12th); Alicia Howe: 100 breast (1:08.08, 13th), 500 free (5:15.27, ninth); Adeline Jay: 200 free (2:05.54, 30th); Lydia Muldoon: 100 back (1:02.53, 25th), 200 IM (2:16.81, 17th); Emily Reardon: 100 fly (1:01.54, 27th); Erin Reardon: 100 breast (1:06.84, eighth), 200 IM (2:09.52, fifth); Lindsey Rush: 100 breast (1:12.42, 28th), 200 IM (2:19.88, 23rd); Emma Schueler: 50 free (24.66, 17th), 100 free (54.07, 22nd)