Although she was tired and hurting, Pleasant Valley swimmer Aviana Zahara was not going to lose the 100 backstroke.
Zahara was neck-and-neck with Bettendorf’s Emily VanDeWiele during the teams’ Mississippi Athletic Conference dual meet Tuesday night and it was going to come down to who could reach for the wall first.
The PV senior was able to just touch out VanDeWiele in the most exciting event of the evening to snag the win for the Spartans. Zahara won the race in one minute, 6.56 seconds. VanDeWiele came in at 1:06.58.
Zahara’s win was one of the few highlights for the home team as Bettendorf ran away with the overall dual victory, 115-71.
Zahara said the last 25 yards of the race was almost entirely mental and she called on an emotion perhaps not usually used in this situation.
“It was exciting, it was a good race. I just tried to get angry that last 25 (yards),” Zahara said. “I was hurting and the only thing I could think about was to get angry, I was really tired. The whole team has been working really hard in practice. Our legs are dead and we are all just really sore. I think we just had to push through.
“In my head, I just said I am going to do everything I can to get to that wall first.”
Zahara said she was not sure she won as the crowd at PV was full of Bulldog and Spartan supporters.
“I did not know because I hit the wall and it was quiet for a second and then I heard a bunch of cheering but I said ‘Was that for me?’" she said with a laugh.
In a race that close, the little things made the difference. VanDeWiele said a decision on a turn may have cost her precious time.
“I was ahead in the beginning but at the 50 mark, I had a bad turn, I was far from the wall,” VanDeWiele said. “I tried to maintain my lead but I just lost it at the end. I should have just stretched it out in the end. But it was an exciting race.”
Both Zahara and VanDeWiele said they enjoyed the competition, especially since this was the first time the two swimmers had met up this year. The Bulldogs and Spartans have not crossed paths this season at any invitationals. But a rematch could be on the horizon if both teams are assigned to the same district meet in a little over three weeks.
Bulldogs coach Mike Ahrens said he enjoyed seeing tough competition. He especially thought the backstroke and breaststroke was a loaded field for a dual meet.
“All six of those swimmers in both those events are great,” Ahrens said. “Everyone pushes each other to be the best. I thought we brought a lot of energy, especially early on, and that got us a big lead and that kind of snowballed from there.”
Bettendorf won the first four events of the meet to get out to a 40-22 edge before the break for diving. VanDeWiele won the 200 freestyle (2:09.8), Arianna Ottavianelli took the 200 individual medley (2:21.54) and Megan Greenley claimed the 50 freestyle (27.68). The 200 medley relay team for the Bulldogs also came in first (2:01.54).
Bulldogs diver Sydney Hanson took first (245.80 points). Alexis Beine won the 100 butterfly (1:07.23) while Greenley snagged her second win in the 100 freestyle (1:00.99).
Libby Staver picked up the other individual win for the Spartans, taking the 400 freestyle in 4:37.90. Ottavianelli capped the Bulldogs individual wins, taking the 100 breaststroke in 1:14.19.
Bettendorf also won the 200 freestyle relay (1:52.60) and 400 freestyle relay (4:08.19).
Christy Bishop put up two second-place finishes for PV in the 200 IM and breaststroke. Staver was runner-up in the 200 freestyle. Shi Trinity (diving), Zahara (50 freestyle), Perapa Chotiprasidhi (butterfly), Lauren Groenenboom (100 freestyle) and Emily Goodman (400 freestyle) all turned in second-place finishes for the Spartans.
Pleasant Valley coach Frank DeMaria Jr. said he was happy how his team fought through being worn down to still be competitive.
“We did a really great job of racing, considering how beat up we are,” he said. “We had some really gutsy swims. It was a good rehearsal for where we want to be four or five weeks from now.”