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They trailed most of the meet.
And they needed to break a district record in the final event.
They also needed some out-of-this world swims in the second-to-last event.
And to top it all off, they were missing a former state champion in their lineup.
Yes, it seemed just about impossible for the Hudson boys swimming and diving team to defend its championship.
The Explorers repeated as champs after placing first with 327 points at a Division I district meet, which concluded Feb. 15 at Cleveland State University's Busbey Natatorium.
Solon, which led most of the 34-team meet, took second with 325 points.
North Canton Hoover finished a distant third with 208 points.
"It was one of our goals," Hudson head coach Matt Davis said. "The kids were aware that they had a chance to repeat and they went out and did it."
It certainly wasn't easy.
The Explorers needed to win the final event of the meet to retain their throne.
Hudson did just that in dramatic fashion.
The 400-yard freestyle relay team of Ross Palazzo, Cole Clampffer, Doni Moffa and Brendon Mulcahey won with a school- and district-record time of 3 minutes, 7.8 seconds to hold off the hard-charging Comets, who touched the wall at 3:08.02.
As a result of its performance, the 400 freestyle relay team advanced to the state meet, which is scheduled to take place Feb. 21 and 22 at C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton. Swimming is set to begin at 9 a.m. both days.
"We were down four points going into the last relay," Davis said. "It basically came down to who would win that race -- us or Solon.
"Nobody was ahead more than a quarter of a body. It's a long race and it's crazy that it would come down to the last two strokes to win it."
And the Explorers needed some magic just to have a chance to overtake the Comets in the final event.
Hudson got 40 critical points in the 100 breaststroke as four Explorers qualified in the top 14.
Leading the way was Palazzo, the 2012-13 state champion in that event. He will get a chance to defend his title after finishing first with a time of 55.78 seconds.
Also scoring in that event for the Explorers were Ryan Johnson (eighth, personal-best 1:00.46), Tyler Behm (11th, 1:01.57) and Adam Ambroziak (14th, 1:02.81).
"Ryan was 30th going into districts and he ended up making the podium," Davis said. "Our breaststrokers had to get us some points to give us a shot. We were down 10 points going into the breaststroke.
"We wouldn't have been in a position to win the meet in the 400 free relay if not for Ryan, Tyler and Adam."
And Hudson was able to make this dramatic comeback without one of its top performers.
Senior Alex Obendorf, who has finished third, first and second at the state meet during his stellar three-year career with the Explorers, is out for the season with a back injury. Obendorf plans to continue his diving career at West Virginia University.
"We spotted 31 points in diving," Davis said. "The kids were pretty excited. It was a fun meet to be a part of."
Palazzo also broke a district record en route to winning the 200 individual medley with a time of 1:50.39. Palazzo hopes to repeat as state champ in that event.
Palazzo, Clampffer, Peyton Brown and Mulcahey punched their tickets to the state meet as members of the 400 freestyle relay team. That quartet finished with a winning time of 1:25.38.
Mulcahey advanced after placing third in the 100 butterfly (52.64) and fifth in the 50 freestyle (21.37). Doni Moffa earned a trip to the state meet after placing third in the 100 backstroke (52.64) and Clampffer advanced in the 200 freestyle (fourth, 1:43.7).
Also earning an invitation to Canton was the 200 medley relay team of Moffa, Brown, Keegan Goeke and Ryan Johnson (fifth, 1:38.64).
Other Hudson swimmers and divers who competed are as follows:
• Diving: Brendan Dagley, 15th, 305.7 points; and Alex Freund, 19th, 247.65
• 200 freestyle: Brian Holcomb, 10th, 1:50.1; Connor Coburn, 19th, 1:53.73; and Alex Faiman, 23rd, 1:54.03
• 200 IM: Moffa, fifth, 1:59.1; Brown, sixth, 1:59.82; and Will Wiley, 13th, 2:04.19
• 50 freestyle: Daniel Nguyen, 28th, 23.52
• 100 freestyle: Clampffer, sixth, 47.38; and Johnson, 14th, 49.51
• 100 butterfly: Goeke, 17th, 55.99; Wiley, 21st, 56.39; Miguel Gomes, 24th, 56.93; Nguyen, 26th, 51.03; and Coburn, 29th, 52.11
• 500 freestyle: Brown, third, 4:49.29; Holcomb, seventh, 4:54.25; Ambroziak, 14th, 5:02.13; and Faiman, 15th, 5:02.25
• 100 backstroke: Goeke, 10th, 55.62; Jason Alexander, 13th, 56.24; and Tanner Nelson, 18th, 57.2;
With this many individuals qualifying, Hudson has a chance to make a major impact at the state competition.
"We're shooting for top five," Davis said. "We want to compete and have fun after the meet. We have kids in position to do some pretty good things."