In the last nine years, the Akron Division I sectional competition has been a battle for second place.
Make it 10.
Once again, it was the Hudson girls swimming and diving team and then everyone else. The Lady Explorers won their 10th consecutive Akron Division I sectional title Feb. 10 at the University of Akron's Ocasek Natatorium.
Hudson placed first out of 15 teams with 417 points. Walsh Jesuit took second with 341 points and Brecksville-Broadview Heights captured third with 245 points.
"The sectional meet is always a tough meet," Lady Explorers head coach Matt Davis said. "Kids are in positions where they have to swim fast and swim well to make it to next meet. We have some kids who made it to the district meet and state meet before."
A total of 19 Lady Explorers advanced to the district competition, which is scheduled to take place Feb. 18 at Cleveland State University's Busbey Natatorium. The meet is set to begin at noon.
The 19 qualifiers happens to be every single Hudson swimmer who competed earned an invitation to Cleveland.
"It says a lot about the program," Davis said. "That's one of our goals. I think we accomplished it one other time in 2010 or 2011. The last couple of years, we were one or two short.
"We had kids who went to JV Champs (Junior Varsity Championships earlier this month in Canton) who would have qualified. Like any successful program, the success comes in competition where kids are fighting for spots."
Freshman Paige McCormick led the way by winning the 500-yard freestyle by nearly 17 seconds. She took first in a time of 5 minutes, .9 seconds.
The 200 freestyle relay team of Macy Trattner, Brittan Ham, Maddie Hannan and Gaby Palazzo added a winning time of 1:40.4.
"Of the 19 girls, we had six or seven who we knew had to swim their best," Davis said. "Katie Caniglia had to swim her best in the 100 breast and Alex Clampffer had to swim her best in both of her events.
"Claire Kinnear swam her season best in the 100 butterfly and freshmen Maddie Horrigan and Noelle Kara, who are both freshmen, made it easily."
Ham, a senior, has proven that patience pays off. When Ham was a freshman, she was a JV swimmer who could not crack the starting lineup. Now Ham hopes to return to the state meet for the second consecutive year.
"I tell the kids, if you work hard in the offseason, getting to the state meet is attainable," Davis said.
Other Lady Explorers who advanced are as follows:
200 medley relay: Ham, McCormick, Palazzo and Natalie Gundling, fourth, 1:51.62
200 freestyle: Gundling, second, 1:58.73; Palazzo, fourth, 2:01.03; and Kirsten O'Keefe, seventh, 2:02.27
200 individual medley: McCormick, fourth, 2:09.12; Maggie Haas, 11th, 2:16.87; Gabrielle Loring, tied for 17th, 2:20.34; and Rachel Johnson, tied for 17th, 2:20.34
50 freestyle: Macy Trattner, fourth, 24.77; Ham, sixth, 25.12; Horrigan, 10th, 25.89; and Noelle Kara, 13th, 26.11
100 butterfly: Palazzo, fourth, 1:00.34; and Horrigan, ninth, 1:03.37; Clampffer, 17th, 1:05.07; and Kinnear, 19th, 1:06
100 freestyle: Hannan, second, 54.26; Trattner, fifth, 55.12; O'Keefe, 10th, 56.31; and Kara, 12th, 56.73;
500 freestyle: Gundling, fourth, 5:20.14; and Maggie Haas, seventh, 5:24.52; and Abby Silcox, 11th, 5:34.61
100 backstroke: Ham, fourth, 1:00.71; Loring, sixth, 1:02.54; and Renee Agnor, eighth, 1:03.22; and Jamie Alexander, 12th, 1:04.29
100 breaststroke: Ana Mathers, seventh, 1:08.79; and Rachel Johnson, 10th, 1:09.56; Caniglia, 18th, 1:13.5; and Clampffer, 19th, 1:14.94
400 freestyle relay: Hannan, Gundling, McCormick and Trattner, second, 3:38.95
The Cleveland district featured the top 40 times in each event from the Akron, Canton and Cleveland sectionals meets.
"Our sectional was the fastest and best of the three," Davis said. "We had kids who didn't finish in the top 16 advance. That shows you how deep our sectional was."
Getting 19 Hudson swimmers to the state competition is definitely a massive long shot. But Davis won't be the least bit surprised to see nine or 10 of his Lady Explorers compete on the ultimate stage.
"I think half of our girls can make it if they swim well enough," Davis said. "I believe we won the district four years in a row and five of the last six. It's going to be a three-team race. (North Canton) Hoover and Walsh are really good."