From 1991-1996, no girls swimming program was more dominate than Rock Island.
During those years, the Rocks won six straight conference titles and then followed each one up with a sectional title.
In the last 20 years, the Western Big Six has been dominated by Galesburg, Moline and United Township. Rocky hadn’t tasted victory since Bill Clinton was president.
Hosting the 2017 conference meet on Saturday, Rock Island finally broke through.
Depth and a few wins were enough for the Rocks to end their 21-year conference championship drought as they scored 296 points, 12 clear of runner-up Moline at Rock Island High School.
“It’s unreal,” drenched first-year head coach Melissa Messerschmidt said. “I’m really proud of my girls. Now that it’s here, I can’t believe it. Those first- and second-tier girls gave us the win.”
Galesburg (241) and United Township (212) rounded out the field. The Panthers had won the last two WB6 titles.
None of the swimmers were born the last time Rocky hoisted a conference trophy. Celebrating in their home pool after the final results were announced, the reaction showed just how badly they wanted to end up on top.
“This is incredible for us. We’ve been talking about this meet the whole season,” Allison Nickel said. “This is huge excitement for us.”
Nickel, Mikayla DePover, Sydney Branson and Hannah Wright started off with a bang, winning the 200 medley relay in 1 minute, 53.16 seconds. Rock Island was the only team to have all four legs swim in under 30 seconds.
It was a pleasant surprise to the eyes of Messerschmidt.
“That wasn’t supposed to happen,” she said.
The only other wins were by DePover in both the 100 freestyle and 100 breaststroke. In the other nine events, depth paved the way.
Rocky managed to place two swimmers in the top five in five of the events they didn't win, including the one-meter diving competition. The Maroons only had two events with the same circumstances.
“We’re a very well-rounded team this year,” Nickel said. “It really worked out in our favor.”
With three events remaining, the Rocks clinged to a two-point advantage over Moline. The 100 backstroke proved to be the difference.
Nickel and Maria Quilty placed third and fourth, respectively. Moline’s Ella Scruthchfield and Kennedy Cook finished seventh and eighth.
Madelynn DePover placing third in the 100 breaststroke to clinch the title.
“That was awesome,” Mikayla DePover said. “With my sister pulling off that third place, it was even more exciting.”
Despite seven wins — including two apiece by Olivia White and Laney Krebs — the Maroons could not halt their own conference title skid, which now sits at 11 years.
“It’s bittersweet,” Moline head coach Craig Frederickson said. “We had some amazing time drops. Every event, Rock Island’s ‘B’ swimmer moved up, and I don’t know if ours did even once. We can’t outrun that.”
UT’s Brandi LaFountaine (100 backstroke) and Kendra Diamond (200 individual medley) were the lone winners for the Panthers.