Boys Swimming: Upper Arlington Golden Bears repeat as Division I district champions

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Hayden Jay placed second in the 200 freestyle, helping the Upper Arlington boys team capture the Division I district championship Feb. 21 at Bowling Green State University.

BOWLING GREEN – Coping with an unfamiliar environment, let alone an unfamiliar quiet with no fans in attendance, the Upper Arlington boys swimming team used two meet records and a handful of strong individual performances Feb. 21 to repeat as Division I district champions.

Powered by three wins and five runner-up finishes, the Golden Bears amassed 348.5 points to fend off runner-up St. Charles (306) as 17 teams scored in a district meet that was held at Bowling Green State University for the first time amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

UA won the 200-yard freestyle relay in a meet-record 1 minute, 22.51 seconds, finished first in the 200 medley relay (1:34.03) and got another record from sophomore Grant Gooding in the 100 breaststroke (54.8).

“We kind of saw it coming in training the past couple weeks,” coach Mike de Bear said. “This was a hard setting. It was hard to stay focused. You have down time and it’s quiet, some crazy fast swimming and not a huge reaction. The guys did their jobs to move on. …

“Everybody says you’ll never have a perfect meet, but this was a good day. This number of points in what I think is the most competitive district meet we’ve had top to bottom, I’m pretty pleased.”

The top two finishers in each event automatically qualified for state Feb. 27 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 swimmers in each event will earn at-large berths based on district times statewide.

St. Charles’ Spencer Aurnou-Rhees, a Texas commit, set a record in the 200 free (1:37.75), helped the 400 free relay to a record in 3:04, won the 100 free (44.77) and anchored the runner-up 200 free relay (1:24.62).

“This is pretty much the greatest I could have hoped for. I just wanted to have a pretty good meet, but I was really happy with how I did and how the team did as well,” said Aurnou-Rhees, a junior who made state the past two years in the 200 individual medley and 500 free. “I was feeling good about all of my races. I went in just hoping something good would happen.”

The other multiple winner was Westerville Central freshman Chase Swearingen, who was first in the 100 backstroke (50.09) and 100 butterfly (49.08).

“The 100 fly, I got what I pretty much expected … but the 100 back (in which he was seeded fifth) was completely unexpected,” Swearingen said. “The first 50, I felt like I was even with people and then I realized I could actually win. I started to pick it up a lot. My underwaters felt great.”

Other winners were Olentangy Liberty’s Hudson Williams in the 200 IM (meet-record 1:48.34), Reynoldsburg’s Nate Gaver in the 50 free (20.55) and Dublin Coffman’s Zac Stump in the 500 free (4:32.34).

Remaining runners-up were UA’s Avery Voss in the 50 free (20.59) and 100 free (44.99), Gooding in the 200 IM (1:50.16), Hayden Jay in the 200 free (1:38.93) and Thomas Ray in the 500 free (4:39.44), Gaver in the 100 breast (56.32), Hilliard Darby’s Mason Peck in the 100 fly (50.58), Stump in the 100 back (50.63) and Dublin Jerome’s 400 free relay (3:06.94).

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave