All season long, the Sterling boys swimming team has been eyeing a sectional championship. On Saturday afternoon in Byron, that goal became a reality.
The Water Warriors won eight of the 11 swimming events in a dominating performance for the team’s first sectional title since 2007.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been able to achieve that goal, so it’s nice to get it done this year with this group,” Sterling coach Kyle Ruiz said. “I think one of the keys is how goal-oriented this team has been a season long, and the leadership at the top does an excellent job of getting their work done and setting an example for the other kids to build on and feed off of. That really helped us out today.”
Jack Wike and Calvin Sandefer each won two individual events and swam on two winning relays, sharing in a new sectional record in the 200 medley relay before Wike broke the meet record in the 200 IM.
Sterling started strong with a record time of 1:35.34 in the 200 medley relay, surpassing the old meet mark of 1:36.75. Wike led off, followed by Skylar Drolema and Reiley Austin, and Sandefer swam the anchor.
“We set the tone at the start,” Sandefer said. “Jack started out really well, Skylar swam an amazing 27.1 in the second leg, and Reiley took over and made the lead bigger. I just wanted to push us to the best time possible.”
Wike then swam a 1:54.14 in the 200 IM, passing up the old record of 1:54.34; Drolema took second in 1:59.41. Sandefer followed with a win in 20.81 seconds in the 50 freestyle, before Austin took the 100 butterfly in 52.94 seconds. Sandefer added the 100 freestyle title in 46.63, and Wike topped the field in the 100 backstroke in 51.47. Drolema won the 100 breaststroke in 59.98, then Wike, Austin, Michael Garland and Sandefer won the 400 freestyle relay in 3:15.24.
“Right when we got in the pool, we felt pretty good,” Wike said. “I felt good, the other guys were looking good, and we were getting great feedback from each other. The key was just executing what we’ve talked about all season. My individual wins weren’t the highlight of the day; the team came together really well.”
“I think that having our second guys in each race step up and do their part, that was a key factor in winning this meet,” Sandefer added.
Dixon sophomore Carson Faley will join the Sterling crew at the state meet next weekend, as he won a pair of events for the Byron co-op.
Faley won the 200 freestyle in 1:44.42, defeating Austin by 1.13 seconds. He later took the 500 freestyle title by 8.36 seconds in 4:46.48.
“I can definitely say I had a great swim, especially in the 200,” Faley said. “I was hoping to make it to state in both events, and I was feeling good during my swims, and it was a really nice day in the pool.
“In the 200, I made sure in the last 25 [yards] that nobody was going to catch me. I had a feeling I could get it done, and I wanted to finish strong.”
Tori Baker has been a consistent part of the Dixon girls bowling lineup through the season. The last two weekends, she pushed her game even further, and her reward was her first trip to the IHSA State Tournament this weekend in Rockford.
On Saturday, the Dixon sophomore found herself as the top local finisher at the 2-day tournament at the Cherry Bowl, following up her 1,179 on Friday with a 1,189 on Saturday to place 34th.
“Both days kind of evened out,” Baker said. “I did pretty good, but I didn’t do as good as I wanted – I wanted to be on the top 15 – but I did a lot better than what I thought coming in. There were maybe three or four games that just weren’t going good for me, but I always came back with 200 games, and I’m proud of myself for that.”
After bowling series of 641 and 538 on Friday to advance to Day 2, Baker opened the morning Saturday with games of 246 and 218 in a 603 series, then closed the afternoon session with games of 211 and 218 for a 586.
Not used to bowling in such a pressure-packed and crowded environment, Baker said she enjoyed herself – and she now knows what to strive for her next 2 years with the Duchesses.
“It was really stressful,” Baker said. “Friday was actually the loudest day, but today was kind of hard for me because I had a headache from the day before. But it will be really cool to remember my last game Friday, because my coaches told me they thought I had made the cut – that was my goal coming in – and I said, ‘Are you kidding me?!’ I was just really excited when I found out I made it to the second day.
“It was such a good experience, and I’m coming back next year and crushing everyone,” she added with a laugh.
The Oregon Hawks placed 10th in the team standings, moving up two places on Saturday after advancing to Day 2 in the 12th and final spot – by just one pin over Sycamore – on Friday. It was the Hawks' first-ever trip to the finals.
“It was outrageous – more nerve-wracking than exciting,” Oregon coach Eric Carlson said. “We were struggling to pick up spares and strikes earlier that day. It didn’t look good.
“But our spare shooting got better in the afternoon and we picked up some strikes. Sycamore wasn’t looking at us. They were focused on another team. They couldn’t control what we did.”
Oregon finished with a 2-day total of 10,751, rolling a 5,325 on Saturday after opening with a 5,426 on Friday. Rebbeca Meyers led the way in 38th place overall with a 2,343, including a 246 game to open her afternoon series. Sammantha Meyers was 44th with a 2,313, opening Saturday’s morning session with a 245, then starting the afternoon series with a 236 and a 234. Alysa Conley finished in 60th place with a 2,231.
All three are juniors from Winnebago, and the only girls to bowl all 12 games for the co-op.
“The co-op was put together 6 years ago,” Carlson said. “Partly because Winnebago’s team folded and they had some pretty good bowlers. It’s helped the girls at Oregon more than boys this year.”
Ava Wight (1,838), Hannah Kaltenbrun (1,614), Elizabeth Villarreal (269) and MacKenzie Brodkowicz (143) also bowled during the weekend. All seven bowlers at state for Oregon are underclassmen.
The individual champ was Mary Orf of O’Fallon, who had a 2,743, including scores of 227, 297, 236 and 278 to start off Saturday. She won by 167 pins.
Lockport won the meet with 12,535, the only team to break 12,000. Harlem (11,955) was runner-up for the second year in a row.
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