For the fourth time in as many years, the Moline boys’ swim team is the Western Big Six Conference champion.
The Maroons crowned nine event champions in totaling 435 points Saturday at the Rock Island pool, ahead of Galesburg (357), Rocky (328) and United Township (327).
Moline senior Austin Morris, who earned his fourth conference title in the 100-yard backstroke with a 53.97, said going 4-for-4 in the Big Six as a team is an achievement he initially did not think was possible when he thought back to his freshman year.
But through the team’s hard work and depth within the group, the Maroons made it happen. Moline had not won four straight swim titles since 1980-84, when the conference meet began.
“In order to win any meet four times in a row, you can’t have just one or two good swimmers. You have to have an entire team that’s full of well-rounded, hard-working individuals,” Morris said. “It feels good to know that I’ve been in a program that’s been able to do such great feats in the past four years.”
Morris also swam on a fourth straight conference title in the 200 medley relay, pairing with Peter Son (200 IM winner), Evan Juarez and Remi Greko (100 and 200 free winner) to win in 1:41.40.
Morris also finished second to Rock Island senior Grant Osborn in the 100 butterfly. Osborn dropped a second and out-touched the South Dakota State-bound Morris to win the event in 54.32; Morris clocked a 54.33.
It was a highlight moment in one of Saturday’s most exciting races.
“We’ve been swimming together since we were like 6,” Osborn recalled of the two competing on opposing swim clubs, “and he’s always won. This was the first time I finally beat him.”
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“He was with me the whole race, so I was worried,” said Osborn, who was seeded over two seconds behind Morris before swimming his season best. “But when that final touch came, I was pretty happy when I looked up at the board and saw I got first.
“He’s an awesome person and an amazing athlete,” Morris said of Osborn, “and I was so happy for him to be able to come out and do that.”
Osborn was one of just three non-Maroons to take first on Saturday, with Galesburg’s Drew Giles winning the 100 breaststroke and teammate Zeke Kent taking Friday’s diving portion with a 325.85 total.
Moline's Steven Klumb won the 50 free (23.39) and was runner-up to Henry Van Note (5:05.64) in the 500 free. Greko, Burgin, Juarez and Morris also won the 200 free relay (1:31.56). Moline’s third relay title in the 400 free relay was won by Henry Neff, Klumb, Van Note and Son in 3:28.56.
Neff set two JV records (200 IM, 500 free), and his 500 free record time of 5:04.78 would have placed first in the varsity race.
Moline's first-year swim coach Michael Roche said although the team's main goal is success at the UT Sectional on Feb. 16, the conference meet was a good reminder of not settling for second-best.
"Especially for the seniors, all four years, to win conference," Roche said, "that's a huge milestone for them and the program. I don't want them to get content, and I always want them to keep pushing to get faster and better."
Although Morris and the Maroons did not match their three conference records from last year or set any school marks at the varsity level, the season bests are hopefully still ahead.
“We’ve had hard practice the last couple days, so we haven’t stopped working," said Morris. "We gave a good stab at our times, but we are tired and there’s better swims to come.”