The Rock Island girls swim team started off Saturday’s home sectional meet with a bang.
The Rocks’ 200-yard medley relay entered the event with the third-best seed time but turned in its best performance of the season to date by winning the event to punch its ticket to next week’s state meet in Evanston.
Although it was the only event Rock Island qualified for state, it set the tone for the rest of the meet as the home team finished an area-best third place as team. The Rocks rang up 179 team points behind meet winners Dunlap (278) and runners-up Peoria Notre Dame (271). United Township was fourth (170) followed by Moline (134).
Moline senior diver Katherine Douglas was the only other area athlete to make it to state, winning her third straight sectional diving title with 433.90 points.
Rock Island coach Grant Bramer said it was a bit of redemption after missing out on the Western Big Six conference title by two points to United Township last week.
“It’s a fantastic way to end the season,” Bramer said. “We were pretty frustrated by how last weekend went so we knew that we had to work extremely hard this week in order to have a strong performance. We had a little bit of a chip on our shoulder and wanted to prove that we are here to stay and are a strong team.”
Elaina Quilty led off the medley relay for the Rocks and was followed by Mikayla DePover. DePover’s split in the breaststroke portion of the race (30.55 seconds) was huge, according to Bramer.
“Going (30.55) was what brought us back,” Bramer said of DePover’s swim. “She swam out of her mind, she’s never gone that fast before.”
Jana Fleming (third leg) and Emma Osborn finished off the winning time of 1:53.10 to edge out the United Township team. The time was a school record that DePover, Fleming, Elaina Quilty and Maria Quilty set in 2015.
DePover said the swim helped energize the whole team.
“I was so happy with how we started off because we wanted this since last year,” the sophomore said about the medley victory. “Since we have two seniors (Elaina Quilty, Jana Fleming) on the relay, it’s just the best going to state with them since we’ve been together. We had happy tears, it was so exciting.”
DePover’s day was not done there. She later broke the school record in the 100 breaststroke for the second time in a week when she turned in a time of 1:08.73 to finish second. Although she did miss the cut for state, she set a school record that had stood since 1991 when Linda Warwick went 1:10.69.
“I wanted to go to state but breaking the school record means my name is going to go up on the board,” DePover said of the achievement.
For the Maroons’ Douglas, this is her third time competing at state. As a sophomore she said she finished in the lower 40s and improved that to lower 20s as a junior. Her goal now is to get into the top 15, which is the semifinals.
From there, a shot at a medal in the top 12 is not too far off. Douglas said, to her memory, a Moline diver has not finished that high at state in a long time.
“Each year, I’ve improved on my seed, so my goal every year is to improve on where I am seeded,” Douglas said. “It just feels crazy and I set so many goals for myself and I take it one goal at a time. It’s crazy that my goals have gotten that high that I could possibly medal at state.”
Although United Township did not advance anyone to state, the Panthers were close in a few events. Abby Jansen (200 freestyle), Caitlin Dassow (100 butterfly) and Brandi LaFountaine (100 backstroke) did have strong swims but did not meet the qualifying times.