by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Paige Kelly plans to play some golf when she gets the chance.
Kelly admits she knows very little about the game, but she's expecting to get some lessons from a close friend.
That would be Hudson head girls swimming and diving coach Matt Davis.
"He told me if I made top three in the 500 free, he would give me golf lessons," Kelly said.
Let's hope she has some clubs handy.
Kelly won her bet with her coach and placed third in the 500-yard freestyle race during the Division I state meet, which concluded Feb. 23 at C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton.
The standout junior finished with a time of 4 minutes, 54.4 seconds. Kelly also placed eighth in the 200 freestyle (1:51.23).
She broke her own school records in both events.
Thanks to Kelly and her talented teammates, the Lady Explorers had their best performance ever. They finished sixth out of 55 teams with 112 points.
Cincinnati Ursuline won the team championship with 234 points. Upper Arlington (215) and Mason (148) finished second and third, respectively. Rounding out the top five were Strongsville (136) and Fremont Ross (125).
"This is probably one of the most complete teams we've had in school history," Davis said. "They broke nine of 11 school records on their way to winning districts. It's the best girls' team I've ever coached."
Kelly made the trip to the state meet for the third consecutive year. She is hoping to become Hudson's next state champion in 2014.
"That's the goal," Kelly said. "I wanted to make the top 16 my freshman year, which I did.
"Last year, I wanted to be in the top eight and this year, I wanted to be in the top three."
Thanks to her seventh-place finishes in both the 200 and 500 freestyle races at the 2012 state meet, Kelly won her first bet with her coach.
It had something to do with the wardrobe a famous hockey coach wore during the United States' magical run to the gold medal in 1980.
"I always show them the movie Miracle at the end of the year," Davis said. "Paige wanted me to wear these crazy plaid pants that looked like the pants Herb Brooks wore if she finished in the top eight."
Sure enough, Davis kept his word. And Kelly and the rest of her teammates got a good laugh.
"It was pretty funny," Kelly said. "All the coaches were commenting about him."
Davis certainly doesn't mind. He'll do anything to see his junior sensation succeed at the highest level.
"Paige is such a tough kid," Davis said. "She knows in her heart she can be competitive with anybody."
Kelly also was part of two relays that placed in the top 10. She joined seniors Connie Gan and Laura Murphy and sophomore Caitlin Weigel on the eighth-place 400 freestyle relay team (3:32.91).
Kelly, Weigel, junior Jillian Saccogna and sophomore Stephanie Boyd guided the 200 freestyle relay team to 10th (1:38.66).
Murphy, who plans to swim at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, and Gan ended their careers as four-year state qualifiers.
Murphy placed seventh in the 100 breaststroke (school-record 1:05.82) and eighth in the 200 individual medley (2:07.09). She also joined Gan, Boyd and sophomore Sarah Wolanske on the ninth-place 200 medley relay (1:47.81).
Gan finished 14th in the 100 butterfly (57.72) and 16th in the 100 freestyle (53.24). Wolanske added a 13th-place time of 5:06.98 for the Lady Explorers. The top 16 performers or relay teams earned All-Ohio honors.
"Laura and Connie will be missed," Davis said. "Those two, along with the rest of the seniors, helped carry the program to new heights."