Upper Arlington Roundup: Boys swimmers again bring lofty goals into season

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Upper Arlington's Hayden Jay placed in the top four in two individual events and two relays last year at the Division I state meet. The boys team is looking to end the 21-year championship run of Cincinnati St. Xavier.

For all of his program’s success over the years, Upper Arlington boys swimming coach Mike de Bear, in a sense, tries to downplay the Division I state meet. 

“I always tell the kids one of your goals should not be making the state meet. I tell them, ‘You need to get times,’ ” de Bear said. “You might swim terrible and make the state meet (or) you might swim very well and other people are just faster than you and you don’t make it.” 

But in his 11th season with the Golden Bears, de Bear also isn’t shying away from lofty expectations for a group he said is “the best team I’ve had.” UA was the state runner-up a year ago with 201 points behind Cincinnati St. Xavier (310) and has five returning state qualifiers, including Stanford recruit Avery Voss. St. Xavier has won 21 consecutive state titles since 1999. 

“One of the challenges I always give them is to be the best team in UA history. No public school has won (state) since (UA in) 1987. We don’t hide from that,” de Bear said. “We’ve been runner-up six times since then; three (times) in my tenure. We have a good chance to have state qualifiers in every event, which we’ve maybe done once since I’ve been here. We’re very solid across the board.” 

Voss was state runner-up in the 100-yard freestyle and third in the 50 free last year and was on the state runner-up 400 free relay with graduate Antonio Ventresca, senior Hayden Jay and sophomore Grant Gooding.  

Jay was third in the 200 free and fourth in the 100 free and was on the fourth-place 200 free relay with Voss and graduates Jake Meyer and Ventresca. 

They were joined at state by senior Jackson Gooding (200 medley relay) and sophomore Grant Kennedy (200 medley relay). Gooding was sixth in the 100 breaststroke, ninth in the 200 individual medley and was on the 200 medley relay. 

Voss said the team, which is scheduled to open Dec. 18 at New Albany, is as well-conditioned as he can remember. He attributed some of that to the lack of a water polo season, which was moved to spring because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

“In polo, you’ll be swimming around but it’s just a different sport. You’re starting and stopping a lot. It’s a lot of power versus the tons and tons of conditioning (for swimming),” Voss said. “We’re all in great condition for December. Normally, it wouldn’t be this good. I think that’s the big thing. 

“We’ve also been focusing on details for six months now. Sometimes, we have to work on those again when we come back in-season but now, we have those details down.” 

According to de Bear, other primary contributors will include seniors Blake Burkle and Jimmy Colombo and sophomores Caden Colombo, Joe Miller, Clark Pabst, Patrick Ray and Jimmy Trace. 

The Golden Bears' Avery Catalano competed on three relays that placed in the top four last year at the Division I state meet, including the winning 200 free relay.

New girls coach  

likes balanced roster 

First-year girls coach John Sands had an idea of his talent before taking over for 17-year coach Dan Peterkoski during the summer, given that UA finished third at state a year ago and returned its championship 200 free relay and an individual state runner-up in Northwestern commit Riley Huddleston. 

Still, entering the scheduled opener, Sands said the evaluation process has been “trickier” than usual because of limited competition against other teams. 

“By this time in the regular season, I probably would have seen them race five to 10 times, including dual meets. This year, I’ve seen them race against competition other than each other never,” said Sands, who inherits a squad that scored 187 points to finish behind Dublin Coffman (214) and New Albany (205) at state as central Ohio teams swept the top three spots. 

“It’s been different. We’ve tried to simulate as much as we can. The lucky thing for us is we have great competition on the team. That’s a real strength. They just compete against each other and go after each other in a really positive way.” 

Huddleston, a junior, was state runner-up in the 50 free (23.20) behind Springboro’s Hannah Hill (23.04) and placed fourth in the 100 breast. The winning 200 free relay of seniors Caroline Colombo and Emma Schueler and juniors Avery Catalano and Caroline Porterfield swam a 1:34.55 to edge New Albany (1:34.96). 

“We have such a solid group of sprinters,” said Schueler, a Miami University recruit who expects to swim the 50 free, 100 breast and 100 free. “(The 200 free relay) is going to be an exciting event to watch with four really strong swimmers. … We have a lot of depth this year, which makes me really excited. I’m excited to see where we can go.” 

Catalano, Huddleston and Porterfield were on the runner-up 400 free relay with graduate Erin Reardon, and Catalano, Huddleston, Porterfield and Schueler comprised the fourth-place 200 medley relay. 

According to Sands, other primary contributors should include senior Lydia Muldoon, junior Samantha Schaefer and some of what he called “a really talented” group of 13 freshmen, including Lizzie Oliphant. 

“A few (of the freshmen) could contribute on the district level and maybe at state as well,” Sands said. 

An eight-time state Coach of the Year, Peterkoski led the Bears to 11 state championships and also coached the girls water polo team to 12 state titles, 17 league championships and 16 district titles. Sands coached Granville’s girls to a fourth-place finish in the Division II state meet in 2014. 

Three seniors  

among UA divers 

The girls team has four divers and the boys three for veteran coach Ryan Wilson. 

Girls divers are senior Lily Baker, sophomore Marlie Boiston and freshmen Kate Brennan and Merin Shell. Seniors Jack Kerstetter and Michael Lee and freshman Spencer Wilkins will dive for the boys team. 

Julia Fidanza, who now competes for Princeton, was sixth at state last year. 

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekDave 

SWIMMING & DIVING 

•Coaches: Boys – Mike de Bear, 11th season; Girls – John Sands, first season 

•Top athletes: Boys – Grant Gooding, Jackson Gooding, Hayden Jay, Grant Kennedy and Avery Voss; Girls – Avery Catalano, Caroline Colombo, Riley Huddleston, Caroline Porterfield and Emma Schueler 

•Key losses: Boys – Hunter Dean, Jake Meyer and Antonio Ventresca; Girls – Julia Fidanza, Erin Reardon and Lindsey Rush 

•2019-20 OCC-Central standings: Boys – Upper Arlington (600), Hilliard Davidson (400), Dublin Coffman (316), Marysville (217), Central Crossing (112); Girls – UA (573), Coffman (456), Marysville (288), Davidson (241), Central Crossing (163), Westland (70) 

•2020 postseason: Boys – First at sectional, first at district, second at state; Girls – First at sectional, third at district, third at state