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by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
It has pretty much become the norm in recent years.
So was there any reason things would change Jan. 4?
The Hudson girls swimming and diving team is the queen of the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division again.
The Lady Explorers captured the five-team Valley Division championship with 565 points Jan. 4 at Cleveland State University's Robert F. Busbey Natatorium.
Strongsville took second with 524 points and Solon finished a distant third with 322.5 points.
Hudson claimed its second consecutive Valley Division championship and third in the last four years. The boys also won the title, which means this is the first time both Hudson squads captured Valley Division crowns in the same year.
"We knew the girls' meet would be close and it was," Lady Explorers head coach Matt Davis said. "Our depth really came through for us as every one of our girls qualified for finals and scored team points.
"The kids came focused and prepared and everyone on the team contributed to winning the meet."
Hudson made a statement that it was going to be the team to beat when Sarah Wolanske and Steph Boyd took the top two spots in the 200 freestyle.
Wolanske barely held off her teammate to win with a time of 1 minute, 57.68 seconds. Boyd swam a time of 1:57.69.
"The meet got started with a bang when Sarah and Steph went one-two," Davis said. "They were both season-best times."
Paige Kelly defended her title in the 500 freestyle with a first-place time of 5:06.47. Wolanske wasn't far behind in third (5:13.44).
"Paige dominated the 500 free," Davis said.
The Lady Explorers also ended the competition in style.
Hudson's 400 freestyle relay team of Jillian Saccogna, Boyd, Wolanske and Kelly barely held off Strongsville to win in 3:37.81. Strongsville's team touched the wall at 3:37.85.
"The final event was a great way to cap off the meet," Davis said. "The 400 free relay was able to overtake Strongsville on the last length to win it."
Kelly added a second place in the 200 individual medley (2:10.76) and joined Saccogna, Macy Trattner and Caitlin Weigel on the second-place 200 freestyle relay team (1:39.9).
Hudson's 200 medley relay team of Boyd, Gina Saxon, Weigel and Trattner also finished second (1:53.78).
Saccogna took second in the 100 freestyle (54.57) and Saxon captured third in the 100 breaststroke (1:09.95).
Three Lady Explorers finished in the top seven in the 50 freestyle. Weigel captured fourth (25.22) and Saccogna (25.47) and Trattner (25.72) placed fifth and seventh, respectively.
Hudson had three swimmers finish in the top nine in the 100 backstroke.
Boyd captured fourth (1:01.52) and Kristin Dagley (1:02.6) and Maggie Haas (1:03.62) placed fifth and ninth, respectively.
Natalie Gundling finished fifth in the 200 freestyle (2:01.91) and seventh in the 100 freestyle (56.06).
Weigel added a fifth in the 100 butterfly (1:01.13) and teammate Kensie Schumacker took seventh in the 500 freestyle (5:28.88).
Also faring well for the Lady Explorers were Haas in the 200 IM (eighth, 2:20.83); Gaby Palazzo in the 100 butterfly (ninth, 1:03.08) and 200 IM (10th, 2:21.84); Rachel Johnson in the 100 breaststroke (10th, 1:15.42); and diver Brittany Seibert (293.25 points).
Hudson is scheduled to host Cleveland St. Joseph Academy Jan. 11 at East Woods Elementary Jan. 10. Swimming is set to begin at 6 p.m.
The Lady Explorers are scheduled to compete at the Northeast Classic Jan. 11 at the University of Akron's Ocasek Natatorium and C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton. The meet is set to begin at 8 a.m.