Regardless of how much success the Upper Arlington girls swimming and diving team enjoys, 17th-year coach Dan Peterkoski makes sure to guard his optimism once the next season begins.
That is every bit as true this season as in the past, even with the Golden Bears returning seven Division I state qualifiers, including sophomore Riley Huddleston, who finished fourth in the 100-yard freestyle and sixth in the 50 free last season, and senior diver Julia Fidanza, a Princeton recruit who finished fourth a year ago.
"We are just trying to get a feel for what we are (and) trying to get in shape," Peterkoski said. "Our experienced kids, our staples from the past couple years, they're doing really, really well. We are young. We have a large freshman class compared to the last few that have come through. We are waiting it out to see how that class will materialize as the season goes on."
The other returning state qualifiers are senior Erin Reardon, junior Caroline Colombo and sophomores Avery Catalano, Caroline Porterfield and Emma Schueler.
Colombo, Huddleston, Reardon and Schueler were on the fifth-place 200 free relay, and Catalano, Huddleston, Porterfield and Schueler placed fifth in the 200 medley relay.
Huddleston owns the fastest time in program history in the 50 free (23.06 seconds) and ranks second in the 100 free (50.63).
"It's not uncommon that we see kids make a big jump early on," Peterkoski said. "The hard thing is keeping them making those jumps as they go through. The reality is that the better you get, the harder it is to get better."
UA opened Dec. 6 with a 121-52 home win over Olentangy Orange and beat visiting Olentangy Liberty 134-51 the next day.
Reardon emphasized turns during the offseason in the hopes of returning to state, where she was 10th in the 500 free and 13th in the 200 free last season.
"I stick on the wall for about 30 seconds and then I come off, but I've been working hard," Reardon said. "Dan says if I fix it, I could take five seconds off my time in the 500 free. It's little things like that that if everyone fixes them, our team could get so much better. We are working on the micro, not necessarily the big picture. It's the little things every single day."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Grace Houser, Katie McKenzie and Lindsey Rush, juniors Sophia Elliott, Carley Hart, Addie Jay, Lydia Muldoon and Lilli Swanson, sophomores Maya Khelashvili, Kezia Lietzau, Stella Petras, Samantha Schaefer and Caroline Ubert and freshmen Ceci Croci, Naomi Maurer, Caitlyn Moloney, Ruchika Raj, Ashley Schuler and Kiersten Schantz.
Hart, Muldoon, Petras, Rush, Schaefer, Swanson and Ubert each qualified for district in at least one individual event.
Fidanza is the girls team's only diver.
"I know she has some goals she wants to achieve when it comes to records and personal goals she's set for herself," diving coach Ryan Wilson said. "I just want to her to enjoy this experience before she goes off to college and trains hard and intense there."
The Bears also will seek their 25th consecutive league championship and 21st district title in a row.
Voss leads returnees for boys swim team
Tenth-year boys swimming coach Mike de Bear isn't holding back with his expectations for this season, in which UA returns five state qualifiers, including junior Avery Voss, who was seventh in the 50 free and eighth in the 100 free last season and helped the 400 free relay to eighth place with senior Antonio Ventresca, junior Hayden Jay and 2019 graduate Alec Caswell.
"Our freshman class is the best I've had in my time here," de Bear said. "At the 14-and-under state championships this summer, we had the top two points scorers (freshmen Grant Gooding and Grant Kennedy), but we also won relays. We had four or five different boys score in the meet individually.
"We have eight solid, good freshmen, plus a foreign exchange student, Jakob (Schul), who is a junior, so really nine new bodies who could make our lineup at the district meet."
Other returning state qualifiers are senior Jake Meyer and junior Jackson Gooding.
Senior Hunter Dean is a Catholic University recruit.
UA opened Dec. 6 with a 114-48 win over Orange and beat Liberty 125-61 the next day.
"We have a lot of talent, top to bottom," Voss said. "We have a freshman class and all of them are showing promise. A few of them will score at state. They are showing a lot of promise. We have a lot of good returning guys coming back. Overall, we're really excited about where things are."
De Bear lauded the team's depth, despite no sophomores being on the roster.
"We still have good (distance swimmers), but I don't think we're quite as top-heavy in that area," he said. "We still have a chance to qualify two or three kids for the state meet, but it's going to be harder. We lost Luke (Landis) and Alec (to graduation). We still have a chance for three good relays. There are events that aren't as good as others, but I think we have a chance to qualify somebody for state in every event."
The Bears have four divers in juniors Ethan White, Michael Lee, Keegan Jones and Jack Kerstetter.
Rounding out the roster are senior Brandon Vanderhorst, juniors Andy Armstrong, Blake Burkle, Jimmy Colombo and Thomas Ray and freshmen Caden Colombo, Alex He, Joe Miller, Ryan Nichols, Clark Pabst, Patrick Ray and Jack Trace.
Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 13 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson
Dec. 14 -- Home vs. St. Paris Graham
*Dec. 13 -- At Davidson
Dec. 14 -- Hilliard Invitational at Hilliard Bradley
*Dec. 13 -- Dublin Jerome at OhioHealth Ice Haus
*Dec. 15 -- Olentangy Liberty at OhioHealth Ice Haus
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 13-14 -- Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 21 -- Firebird Wrestling Classic at Kettering Fairmont