ROCK ISLAND – Shannon Long got her first varsity diving experience Saturday. All the Sterling freshman did was win a sectional title and advance to state.
Competing in the morning diving competition at Augustana College in the Rock Island Sectional meet, Long’s 11 dives totaled 234.40 points, giving her a narrow victory over Rock Island’s Alicia Freiburg, whose score was 230.85.
“I came here for my first meet and really didn’t expect this,” said Long, who is the Sterling girls’ first state-qualifying diver. “About the second round, I started to calm my nerves. It just came to me.”
Joining Long as a state qualifier was junior Sterling teammate Charli Wike, who advanced in both the 200-yard individual medley and 100 breaststroke in the swimming part of the sectional at Rock Island High School.
Wike won the IM by almost 3 seconds with her time of 2 minutes, 12.62 seconds. She was the top seed in the event. Wike feels like she’s matured in the IM.
“I know I’ve had a lot of struggles in the past,” she said. “If anybody was ahead of me by the fly, I would give up. All the other teams know that. I know the other coaches were telling their swimmers to beat me in the fly and they’d be good. But, I wasn’t going to let them.”
Wike was the final state qualifier in the breaststroke as a freshman but missed the cut last season. She finished third Saturday but bested the state cut time by a narrow 6 hundredths of a second.
“When I touched the wall, I didn’t want to look at the board, because I didn’t think I made it,” Wike said. “It’s kind of a relief, but I know I had a lot more there for next weekend [at state].”
One dive stood above the rest for Long, who was simply not ready for prime time until now.
“I was really struggling with my forward one-and-a-half, but when I did it, I got all fives,” she said. “That really made me happy. All my dives went the way I wanted them to go.”
Sterling finished fourth in the 10-team field with 147 points. Morrison was ninth (52 points) and Newman 10th (24). Galesburg edged Dunlap for the team title, 261-254.5. Moline was third with 167 points.
“Charli had an incredible meet,” Warriors coach Jamie Rodriguez said. “We told her certain things to do in both of her events, and she stepped up and did exactly what we practiced.
“It’s awesome that we have a diver going. We’re so thrilled. She did every dive the way [diving coaches] Max and Beth [Lindsay] practiced with her. It took until this meet for her and our coaches to feel confident with her dives.”