With his team's 20th consecutive Division I district championship secured Feb. 15 at Ohio State, Upper Arlington High School girls swimming and diving coach Dan Peterkoski spread the credit throughout his team.
The 200-yard medley relay of Avery Catalano, Riley Huddleston, Caroline Porterfield and Emma Schueler started the meet with a win in 1 minute, 43.75 seconds to earn an automatic berth to the state meet Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23, at Branin Natatorium in Canton. The 200 freestyle relay of Caroline Colombo, Huddleston, Erin Reardon and Schueler later added a win in 1:35.26.
Huddleston, a freshman, also finished first in both the 50 free (23.06) and 100 free (50.63).
However, diving might have been what ultimately decided a close race for the team title against New Albany.
Julia Fidanza finished second (517.35 points) and Holly Darling placed third (511.25), helping lift the Golden Bears to 306 points and first place ahead of the runner-up Eagles (295) as 27 teams scored.
New Albany defeated UA in swimming events 282-273.
"Our kids swam well enough and the divers were awesome," Peterkoski said. "It wasn't as big of an advantage as I expected it to be, but I was pleasantly surprised with how we swam in some areas. Getting the wins in those first two relays was huge. These last two years are the only two years since I've been coaching at UA (since 2003) that I've had to watch the score or even paid attention to where we were. It makes it a much more interesting race from a team perspective."
Reardon earned the Bears' other automatic state berth by finishing second in the 500 free (5:00.02).
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.
The top four girls divers advanced to their state competition Thursday, Feb. 21.
Fidanza said she thrived on her front 2 1/2 pike and a double twister to end the meet.
"Those got me the most points, but they are kind of new dives for me so I wasn't sure how they were going to go. They're almost my hardest, so I am glad they went well," Fidanza said. "It means a lot that we're able to get points for the team. We love being a part of the whole program. State is an amazing accomplishment for anyone and everyone."
Darling overcame some adversity and uncertainty of her own with her dives and on the board.
"I was really happy with my gainer because I've had some struggles with that and didn't know how it would go. This turned out pretty well," Darling said. "I've been having issues with my hurdle, my balance on the board, so I just focused on standing up more, keeping my body upright and that allowed me to get everything I needed."
Huddleston is seeded third at state in the 50 free and fifth in the 100 free.
"I just wanted to do my part the best I could," Huddleston said. "My races were good. I was happy with my turns. I only took two breaths (in the 50 free), which is new for me."
Earning at-large berths were the 400 free relay of Catalano, Colombo, Porterfield and Reardon (3:30.77, third), Catalano in the 100 breast (1:06.25, fourth), Porterfield in the 50 free (1:52.43, fourth) and 100 butterfly (57.08, sixth) and Reardon in the 200 free (1:52.43, fourth).
Boys team advances five to state meet
Boys coach Mike de Bear considered Avery Voss the star of the Division I district meet for his team, considering that he qualified for state in two individual events and helped advance two relays.
Voss was on the runner-up 400 free relay (3:08.57) with Alec Caswell, Hayden Jay and Antonio Ventresca and the sixth-place 200 medley relay (1:36.71) with Jackson Gooding, Jake Meyer and Reed Ray and, individually, placed third in both the 50 free (20.88) and 100 free (45.73).
"(Voss) is racing some grown men out there as a 15-year-old kid," de Bear said. "I don't think we've ever had a sophomore go that fast in 60 or 70 years of UA swimming. He has work to do moving forward and we might move him around on relays (at state), but he is getting what he works for. Those were big-time swims."
Caswell was runner-up in the 200 free (1:41.98) and placed fourth in the 500 free (4:35.26) to earn an at-large berth.
UA finished third (238) behind champion Dublin Jerome (301) as 27 teams scored.
"I don't think (Feb. 15) could have gone much better. I was super happy with how I did," Voss said. "All the work paid off. Coach Peterkoski helped me with my stroke, which I think was huge. I got to rest some. I tapered for (district). Only in extreme cases do people taper for state, but we wanted our best times in this meet and that's what we shot for."
Other at-large qualifiers were Jay in the 200 free (1:42.15, third), Landis in the 500 free (4:36.86) and the 200 free relay of Caswell, Jay, Meyer and Ventresca (1:27.06, sixth).
Voss admitted some nerves entering the state meet, largely because last year he was on the 20th-place 200 free relay and did not qualify in an individual event.
"(This weekend,) I have to do it on my own," Voss said. "In that place, it's nerve-wracking, but I hope I can handle my nerves to the best of my ability."