Upper Arlington boys swimming and diving coach Mike de Bear let himself crack a few smiles after the Division I district meet Feb. 13 at Ohio State, when his Golden Bears won their first district championship since 2013.
The Bears had every reason to celebrate, as they set five meet records and six program records in the victory. But de Bear was quick to remind his athletes that they still have one meet remaining -- the Division I state meet Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22, at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
"We've been very close (to a district title) a few times, but to do it this way, setting five meet and six (program) records ... and some of those records are 25 and 30 years old," de Bear said. "But this is step two of three (counting a sectional meet Feb. 8 at home). We're humble and hungry, but this was a really good day. You don't have many of these.
" 'Salty' (assistant coach Todd Saltus) tells me to stop looking at times so much, but I do that ahead of time. If we did our job, we'd put ourselves in good position to have a chance to do something like we did here. That's what our goal here was, to put ourselves in position to do something big (this week)."
Avery Voss set meet and program records in the 50-yard freestyle (20.02 seconds) and 100 free (44.12) and was on the record-setting 200 free (1:23.17) and 400 free (3:26.43) relays to lead UA, which scored 381.5 points to finish first ahead of runner-up St. Charles (313) as 23 teams scored.
Also setting meet and program records was the 200 medley relay, which won in 1:33.27 with Grant Gooding, Jackson Gooding, Grant Kennedy and Jake Meyer.
Meyer won the 100 breaststroke in a program-record 55.85 and was on the 200 free relay with Hayden Jay, Antonio Ventresca and Voss. Grant Gooding, who was second in the 200 individual medley (1:52.05), joined Jay, Ventresca and Voss on the 400 free relay.
Jay also won the 200 free (1:39.22) and was second to Voss in the 100 free (45.96).
"This is beyond anything my team or I could have expected," Voss said. "Both of (my individual) times were a couple seconds faster than what I was expecting. Basically, I just got in, swam my race, felt really good and the times worked themselves out. ...
"The 50 felt really good. I came in warmed down for the 100 and then I felt really good in the 100, too. It just went perfectly for me. I didn't know what the meet records were and I wasn't paying attention. That wasn't my goal."
Voss' performances didn't surprise de Bear, who was named district Coach of the Year.
"We don't have anyone who works harder than him. We have kids who work as hard as him, but nobody works harder," de Bear said. "He's a good leader and quietly confident. We have 10 or 12 boys who earn everything they get."
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.
Here's a list of area state qualifiers.
UA will try to dethrone 11-time defending state champion Cincinnati St. Xavier this weekend. The Bombers have won a state-record 40 titles.
"We know what we're capable of," Voss said. "Our goal is to be the top public school. Hopefully that means second (place) behind St. X. Coming off this meet, I think we can at least do that."
Girls team's title
Riley Huddleston's wins in the 50 free (22.98) and 100 backstroke (55.04) led the girls team to third place (279) behind New Albany (378) and Dublin Coffman (288) as 26 teams scored, snapping the Bears' 20-year streak of district titles.
Huddleston also was on the first-place 400 free relay (3:26.43) with Caroline Colombo, Caroline Porterfield and Erin Reardon and third-place 200 medley relay (1:43.95) with Avery Catalano, Emma Schueler and Caroline Ubert.
The 200 free relay won (1:33.92) with Catalano, Colombo, Porterfield and Schueler.
"I wanted to break 23 in my 50 free, so I was really happy about that," said Huddleston, who placed fourth in the 100 free and sixth in the 50 free at state last year. "We did pretty well as a team and I am proud of everybody. We still have momentum we can carry into state. For me, I know now what to expect (at state). I'm a lot calmer than I was last year in that respect. I am very excited to race up there."
UA's other automatic state qualifier was diver Julia Fidanza, who finished second (493.8) behind Olentangy Liberty's Olivia Lynch (510). Fidanza, a Princeton recruit, placed third at state last year and eighth as a sophomore.
The top four girls divers advanced to state Thursday, Feb. 20.
"I need to focus more on my front 2 1/2 to get that more consistent for (this) week and I hope I score better," Fidanza said.
"That dive and my last dive, my front 1 1/2 double twist, usually score the most points for me because they are the highest difficulty, so I rely on those a lot. I think I'm in a really good spot. The other girls here are right there with me and we're all capable of winning (state)."