Depth has been a common theme throughout a run of dominance that has seen the Upper Arlington High School girls swimming and diving team earn 12 Division I state championships and two runner-up finishes since 2003.
In many of those years, the Golden Bears have been particularly strong in distance events.
That might still turn out to be the case, but 16th-year coach Dan Peterkoski was not so sure as the season began.
"I think we've evolved and changed a little bit to the point that this year, for the first time in a long time, we're more sprint-oriented than distance (-oriented)," Peterkoski said. "We aren't training any differently, but it's just where kids are falling. Part of it is we've been so thick in those areas for such a long time that kids gravitated to other events. It also could just be the athletes we have right now."
While UA graduated both of its individual state swimming qualifiers from last year in Dakota Elliott and Kendra Sheehan, who swim at Pittsburgh and Ohio University, respectively, the Bears return both of their state diving qualifiers in senior Holly Darling and junior Julia Fidanza as well as three swimmers who participated in relays at state in junior Erin Reardon and sophomores Caroline Colombo and Emma Schueler.
Elliott finished her prep career with consecutive state titles in the 200-yard individual medley and was state runner-up in the 500 freestyle last year, as the Bears scored 122 points at state to finish seventh behind champion Mason (236) as 55 teams scored.
UA opened Nov. 30 with a 129-57 home win over Olentangy Orange and defeated visiting Olentangy Liberty 139-47 the next day.
Reardon, who was on the 10th-place 400 free relay at state last year with Colombo, Schueler and classmate Sophia Elliott, plans to compete in two contrasting events in the 100 breaststroke and 500 free, as will junior Alicia Howe.
"The diversity (of events) helps me," Reardon said. "In age-group swimming, it was nice because I did everything so it helps me now. I could do (butterfly), (backstroke), breast, free and distance and not having one thing to specialize in.
"The thing I like about our team dynamic is, I feel we don't focus on (grade level). We're all kind of together. At least, I don't focus on the grade. I see everyone and we have a good time. We're all good at helping each other."
Darling, a West Virginia recruit, placed seventh at state last year, one place ahead of Fidanza.
According to Peterkoski, several freshmen are expected to contribute, including Avery Catalano (breast, free), Riley Huddleston (back, fly), Caroline Porterfield, Samantha Schaefer and Caroline Ubert (fly, free).
Peterkoski said Porterfield and Schaefer should be able to compete in several events.
"The freshmen will impact us immediately," he said. "If they develop like I expect them to develop, they will impact us at a very high level. The potential for this group is pretty good right now."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Grace McCarty, Meredith McKee and Emily Reardon, juniors Abby Hendershot, Grace Houser, Katie McKenzie and Lindsey Rush, sophomores Lydia Muldoon and Lilli Swanson and freshmen Maya Khelashvii and Stella Petras.
McKee is a diver.
Four state qualifiers return for boys team
Four of the boys swimming and diving team's six state qualifiers from last season have returned, led by senior Alec Caswell, a Johns Hopkins recruit who finished ninth in the 500 free and 11th in the 200 free.
Classmate Luke Landis was 20th in the 500 free, and junior Antonio Ventresca and sophomore Avery Voss are back from the 200 free relay that placed 20th.
"This is our most talented team in three or four years," ninth-year coach Mike de Bear said.
"Some of the talent is very young. I don't know if we'll be third or fourth at state, but we are pretty talented in our sophomore, junior and senior classes. We don't have any freshmen this year, but we'll have 10 or so next year. We've seen that coming. But in terms of the guys I have ... we're excited about the process of where we are right now."
UA opened with a 145-40 win over Orange on Nov. 30 and defeated Liberty 101-85 the next day.
Seniors Josh Gorski and Reed Ray, juniors Hunter Dean and Jake Meyer and sophomore Hayden Jay also have stood out early, according to de Bear.
"This is the best training group I've had in a few years and maybe the deepest I've had, period," de Bear said. "You will see some kids that kind of come out of nowhere that maybe haven't made district until now. We have some gems like Hunter Dean. Jake Meyer could be that guy we are counting on. He is doing things training-wise he's never come close to doing. He is not the exception, though. That's kind of the rule."
Caswell hopes to swim about 1 minute, 40 seconds in the 200 free and 4:34 in the 500 free by the end of the season. He swam 1:47.69 and 4:55.22, respectively, in those events against Liberty.
"I'd like to drop some time and move up and really make an impact at the end of the season and see how far we can go," Caswell said.
"I want to drop a couple seconds in both the 200 and 500, but I am just excited to see what we can do as a team."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Will Geletka and Daniel Seely, juniors Jimmy Ravine, Theo Senzaki, Brandon Vanderhorst and Brody Widman and sophomores Blake Burkle, Jimmy Colombo, Jackson Gooding, Keegan Jones, Michael Lee, Will Longhitano, Thomas Ray and Ethan White.
Jones and Lee are divers. Geletka splits time between swimming and diving.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Nov. 30 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
Dec. 1 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
Dec. 7-8 -- Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 14 -- vs. Cleveland St. Ignatius and Rocky River Magnificat
Dec. 15 -- at New Albany
Dec. 22 -- vs. Gahanna
Jan. 4 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
Jan. 5 -- at Mason
Jan. 11 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
Jan. 18 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
Jan. 19 -- vs. Olentangy
Jan. 26 -- OCC-Central at home
Feb. 2 -- Upper Arlington Invitational
Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 14 -- At Hilliard Davidson
*Dec. 14 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson
Dec. 15 -- Hilliard Invitational at Hilliard Davidson
Dec. 14 -- Sylvania Northview in Parma Padua Holiday Tournament at OBM Arena
Dec. 15 -- Toledo St. Francis and Toledo St. John's in Parma Padua Holiday Tournament
Dec. 16 -- TBD in Parma Padua Holiday Tournament
Dec. 15 -- Firebird Classic at Kettering Fairmont