When the members of this year's New Albany girls swimming and diving team look back on winning the Eagles' first Division I district championship, they might not remember that they won only one event Feb. 13 at Ohio State.
The Eagles' depth finally got them over the hump, as they recorded 11 top-four finishes to amass 378 points to not only win their first district title since 2009 -- the program's last season in Division II -- but dethrone 20-time defending champion Upper Arlington in the process.
New Albany, whose only win on the girls side came in the 200-yard medley relay (1 minute, 42.28 seconds), finished 90 points ahead of runner-up Dublin Coffman (288) as 26 teams scored. UA was third (278).
"It's taken us 11 years to get back," said coach Dave Wharton, whose team had been district runner-up five years in a row and was second by a combined 18 points the past two seasons. "Our divers did a fantastic job. It's exciting in every aspect. The depth on the girls side was important. We had four girls in the final heat of the 500 (freestyle). It was exciting to see their hard work culminate here, but we're not done yet. This is one more step. Now, we focus on what's next."
Next up is the state meet at Branin Natatorium in Canton, which begins Thursday, Feb. 20, with girls diving. Swimming preliminaries are Friday, Feb. 21, and the championship and consolation finals as well as boys diving are Saturday, Feb. 22.
The Eagles got second-place finishes from Ava Lachey in the 100 free (50.82), Mia Lachey in the 200 free (1:50.43), the 200 free relay (1:35.49) and the 400 free relay (3:27.36). Mia Lachey also was third in the 500 free (4:58.37), and Ava Lachey placed fifth in the 50 free (23.45) and was on the 200 medley relay with Sydney Boals, Carly Meeting and Olivia Hovorka.
Lexi Elkovitch and Hovorka joined the Lachey sisters on the 400 free relay, which will seek its second consecutive state championship this weekend. Boals, Elkovitch, Mia Lachey and Stacy Saribalas comprised the 200 free relay.
"This just shows our growth over the past four years and our progression through the district," Mia Lachey said. "The team culture and everyone realizing they shouldn't prioritize their personal goals over the team goals has been huge. I've noticed that more and more since my sophomore year. We lost on the last relay then. Just working as a team has helped a lot."
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 district times statewide.
Here's a list of state qualifiers.
Jimmy Lapsley won the 100 backstroke (49.36) and Jordan Rzepka scored a state-record 684.15 points to win the diving competition Feb. 12 to lead the boys to 201 points and fifth place behind champion UA (381.5) as 23 teams scored.
Noah Duperre was second in diving (674.2) as the top six boys qualified for state.
Rzepka eclipsed the previous state record of 681.8 set by Shaker Heights' Lyle Yost, a three-time state champion who now competes for Ohio State. Rzepka will miss state, however, because he already was scheduled to compete in the FINA Grand Prix this week in Rostock, Germany.
"It's a little sad (to miss state)," said Rzepka, a junior. "This was a good confidence boost. It helps me look forward to next year."
Duperre, a senior and Texas recruit, was state runner-up as a freshman and sophomore but missed last season because of a foot injury.
"I'm excited for what's to come," he said. "I know what to expect. My freshman year, I was just there to get the experience and have fun with my team. I still want to keep those elements of having fun and not putting too much pressure on myself, but I definitely feel more prepared."
Girls diver Emma Skinner finished third (472.3) as the top four finishers qualified for state.
"I just tried hard to get it together and stay consistent. That's my biggest thing, just staying consistent on every dive," Skinner said. "Some dives I hit were the easier ones and I got high scores on those. I started off strong, which helped me."
Hockey team set for district tourney
After nine days off from games, its longest such stretch of the season, the hockey team will take on 15th-seeded Olentangy or 17th-seeded Watterson in the second round of the district tournament Sunday, Feb. 23, at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
New Albany, which is seeded fourth of 25 teams and is 17-14-2 overall, has a first-round bye.
The Eagles defeated Olentangy 7-3 on Dec. 22 at Chiller Easton and did not play Watterson during the regular season.
The winner will play fifth-seeded Dublin Jerome, 14th-seeded Coffman or 16th-seeded Kettering Alter in a district quarterfinal Feb. 29 at the Ice Haus.
Jerome eliminated New Albany from the Blue Jackets Cup with a 3-0 win in a first-round game Feb. 13 at the Ice Haus. The fourth-seeded Eagles fell behind 1-0 in the first period and the fifth-seeded Celtics added a goal in each of the next two periods.
The boys and girls bowling teams will open their postseasons this week at HP Lanes.
The boys bowling team will compete in the Division I sectional Friday, Feb. 21. The girls will compete the following day.