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Dixon sophomores have been key contributors

Building blocks

Dixon sophomores Abbey Blackbourn (left) and Kaylyn Rice are building blocks for a young Byron Coop swim team. The team will compete Saturday in the Rockford Jefferson Sectional.
Dixon sophomores Abbey Blackbourn (left) and Kaylyn Rice are building blocks for a young Byron Coop swim team. The team will compete Saturday in the Rockford Jefferson Sectional.

Admittedly, Byron co-op coach Pat Egan did not have overly high expectations for the Tigers this season.

"We have a really young team. We graduated a lot from our sectional champion team," Egan said. "I kind of looked at it as a rebuilding year."

The rebuilding seems to be ahead of schedule with building blocks like Dixon High School sophomores Abbey Blackbourn and Kaylyn Rice.

The duo helped Byron to an 8-2 season and the Northern Illinois Independent Conference championship.

"I'll take these kind of rebuilding years," said Egan, whose team has just one senior and three juniors to go along with four sophomores and four freshmen.

This is Rice's second year with the Tigers and Blackbourn's first.

Rice had no hesitation in coming up with her highlights of the season.

"Beating Sterling in our dual meet and beating them again at conference when we placed first," she said. "We weren't really expecting to get first, but we pulled through."

Blackbourn, Rice and the rest of the Tigers will compete in the Rockford Jefferson Sectional on Saturday.

"I've been pretty constant with my times. In sectionals, I'm hoping to get a PR," Blackbourn said. "My main goal is to improve in the 50 freestyle. Of course I want to improve in my other events, but the 50 free is my main focus."

Besides the 50 free, Blackbourn will swim the 100 free and 200 and 400 free relays. Rice, meanwhile, will compete in the 100 backstroke, 200 individual medley and the 200 medley and 200 free relays. She'll swim the backstroke in the medley relay and figures to anchor the 200 free relay.

Rice has been battling ailing shoulders.

"They've been bothering me for part of the season," she said. "I've been stretching them out and working on my technique. I'm still having some problems, but they're getting better."

While it's been a terrific season, Blackbourn and company may have a tough time getting anybody to state.

"We've worked hard to get where we've got," she said. "We're coming into sectionals in a good spot. But, I'm still quite a ways away from state time. I'm hoping for top six and a PR."

"I'm hoping to get at least top six as a team and in both my individual events," Rice said.

Egan thinks the Tigers are a year or 2 away.

"Our sectional is strong this year," he said. "There are a lot of veteran swimmers in the sectional. Our goal is top six as a team and top six in as many events as we can get. Realistically, it's a long shot for us to get anybody through. It's a lot to ask of these young kids."

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