A dual swim meet Thursday night at the Rock Island High School pool pits two teams that could vie for the Western Big Six title in a few weeks.

Moline coach Craig Frederiksen won’t be surprised if it’s close. The more he talks, the more it sounds as if he won’t even be surprised if his Maroons win.

But when the teams meet, he will tell you several things. One is that Rock Island is the favorite.

But he also adds, “the Rock Island dual meet usually yields pretty amazing performances out of the (Moline) girls.”

The meet usually features good sportsmanship, he noted, but also a strong rivalry.

“Historically, we’ve always had great competition,” Frederiksen said.

There’s also another factor — hard work.

“We’ve been grinding since August,” he said. “This is when we start to see return on investment with all the work we’ve put in.”

Rock Island first-year coach Melissa Messerschmidt likes how her Rocks are swimming and is guardedly optimistic about Thursday’s meet.

“One-hundred percent of my kids have swam their best (time) in one event so far this season,” said Messerschmidt, a former Illinois Wesleyan swimmer. “We haven’t even rested yet. That’s a really big accomplishment.”

Messerschmidt, who teaches kindergarten in the school district during the day, sad the team's biggest accomplishment so far is finishing second at its own invite.

The Rocks are led by junior Mikayla DePover in the 100 breaststroke, 200 individual medley, 100 butterfly and the 200 medley relay.

But she is one of several Rocks pacing the team; others include senior Sydney Branson in the individual medley, the butterfly and the breaststroke; junior Maria Quilty in the 50 and 100 freestyle and relays; freshman Allyson Smithson in the 200 and 500 freestyle; and senior Allison Nickel in the freestyle, backstroke and relays.

The Rocks have not won the conference meet in 21 years, Messerschmidt  noted, adding ending that streak is among her goals. But her main aims are to have the girls continue to improve their times, have the medley relays break the school record and make it to state and get at least one individual to state.

Moline’s team is led by sophomores Olivia White (200 and 500 freestyle) and Gabbi Lopez (the 200 individual medley, the 100 butterfly and the relays), plus seniors Laney Krebs in the sprint freestyles, breaststroke and relays, and sophomores Ella Scrutchfield in the backstroke and 500 freestyle and Abbi Devinney in the breaststroke and freestyle.

Frederiksen said at the outset of the year, he considered United Township and Rock Island as conference favorites, but as the season progressed, it’s clear he’s hopeful of his Maroons.

United Township is plenty strong, too, he said.

The Panthers are led by senior Caitlin Dassow (200 IM and 100 butterfly) and juniors Kendra Diamond (200 and 500 freestyle and relays) and Brandi LaFountaine, who Frederiksen believes is strong wherever coach Brett Busch puts her.

Sportstmanship alive and well: I still can’t get over seeing Rock Island Invite Cross Country champion, Alleman’s Addie Pulley, hanging around after winning the meet last week at Saukie not only to congratulate the second-place finisher from Geneseo and her teammate who finished third but also to help from the ground another runner or two. She was still recovering herself from running 3 miles plenty fast on a hot, humid day. But she still hung around and helped friend and foe alike.

She picked up the idea at a running camp she attended in Colorado,  Pulley said. It really touched her.

“There were some elite runners,” she recalled. “Most of all, their compassion shown through and their desire to always be serving others, even if they are out there competing against them. I wanted to bring that home.”