It happens every year.
The Hudson girls swimming and diving team always seems to top its impossible-to-reach standards.
Finally, the Explorers had a bit of a drop-off last winter.
Hudson’s five-year reign as the queen of the Cleveland district came to an end when North Canton Hoover topped the Explorers.
However, to say Hudson took a step back last season would be a completely false statement.
The Explorers’ never-ending breakthroughs kept on coming despite their near miss in Cleveland.
That’s because Hudson had its highest finish ever at the 2018 state meet. The Explorers finished third behind Mason and Hoover.
Those two teams will be in Hudson’s way again this season. And 13th-year Explorers head coach Matt Davis, who is 110-8 at Hudson and 214-36 overall, is perfectly OK with going head-to-head with those juggernauts down the road.
"Hoover has a pretty good group of seniors," said Davis, who enters his 15th year overall as a head coach. "It will be a fun battle at the end of the season."
The Explorers, who also captured their third straight Suburban League National Conference title (7-0), has most of their nucleus back from a season ago.
They did lose a couple of talented swimmers, though.
The two most noteworthy graduates are Kaitlyn Dewitt, a butterfly and freestyle specialist who is now swimming at the University of Mount Union in Alliance, and Kirsten O’Keefe, who swam on the 200-yard freestyle relay team that reached the state competition.
Nonetheless, Hudson has a knack for reloading rather than rebuilding ever since Davis took over the program.
Davis, whose assistants are Dan Miller (diving), Adam Crabtree, Holly Kear, Mallory Martin and Matt Riede, has plenty of talented athletes at his disposal and the goal is to, perhaps, get a different colored medal in February.
While Davis acknowledges the abundance of stars, he also knows nothing can be taken for granted.
"We have a lot of great swimmers and divers, but we need to get better every day," Davis said. "We talk about being better today than we were yesterday."
Hudson’s otherworldly success isn’t because of just talent and a tireless work ethic.
It also has a lot to do with versatility and being able to excel in all aspects of the sport. If you swim for the Explorers, it’s a good bet you will be able to master every stroke.
"We teach our kids to be well-rounded early on," Davis said. "If you make it to the district meet in the IM (individual medley), that means you’re good in all four strokes. That allows us to put them in different stuff."
If you’ve been around Davis and his teams over the years, loyalty is a vital aspect of the team’s success.
The Explorers, who are referred to as "BOATS" in the 44236 ZIP code, welcome back alums every season. As a result, the motto at East Woods Pool is, "Once a BOAT, always a BOAT."
"We talk about our team being a family," Davis said. "Both the boys and girls train together and compete together. We want to be competitive, but we always want them to have great friendships."
Those friendships are built quickly.
One Hudson tradition takes place two weeks before the season begins. Members of both the girls and boys teams make a trip out of town to get acquainted with each other before they even jump in the pool.
"We have gone to Kenyon (Gambier) College the last six years to do some training and team building," Davis said. "We’ll have guest speakers. They get to know their teammates and get an understanding of what a family is about."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.