BY LARRY BRENNAN lbrennan@saukvalley.com800-798-4085, ext. 550

Sterling freshman to dive at state meet this weekend

Long excited to take the plunge

Shannon Long is already a national champion. Friday, she'll try her hand in her first state high school competition.

Long was a right fielder and catcher on the world champion Sterling Little League softball team in August of 2011.

Last Saturday, the 14-year-old Sterling High School freshman won the Rock Island Sectional diving competition and advanced to state, despite the fact that it was her first meet of the season.

The state meet is Friday and Saturday at Evanston High School.

Being a world champion helped Long, who is new to diving, deal with her first sectional competition.

"There was still a lot of pressure and a lot of nerves," she said. "But I was used to the big stage. It really helped."

Long, who is not a gymnast like many divers, decided to take the plunge into diving with a little nudge from her parents.

"They were really pushing me to do a second sport," she said. "I thought, 'Why not diving?' I wanted to do it, since no one on our team has experience with it."

There have certainly been some bumps along the way.

"I put up with the smacks and all the bruises and everything I had to go through," Long said. "I landed on my back a couple times, once on my belly, my thighs, my head – everywhere possible."

Joining Long at state will be junior teammate Charli Wike, who will be making her third straight trip to state. Wike was the sectional champion in the 200-yard individual medley and narrowly beat the state time cut to advance in the 100 breaststroke.

The Wike name has long been synonymous with Sterling swimming, and the family connection was in effect at the sectional meet.

"My aunt Maggie [assistant coach Maggie Wike] was the biggest part of my racing," Charli said. "She walked be behind the blocks and kept me calm. I wasn't nervous at all. I was 100 percent confident."

Maggie Wike is the mother of former Sterling star James Wike, who went on to swim at Auburn University.

Emily and Sarah Wolber were also a big part of Charli Wike's sectional performance.

"I always dreamed of being as fast as Sarah Wolber, and I got her time [in the IM] from 2 years ago," Wike said. "She was a big part of this, too. She's 1,000 miles away in North Carolina now, but I still talk to her every day."

Wike has been chasing Emily Wolber's breaststroke school record of 1 minute, 5.99 seconds. At sectionals, Wike went 1:08.16. Emily was in attendance Saturday.

"Hopefully I can still get the record at state or next year," Wike said. "It meant a lot that she came."

Locals state seedings

• Shannon Long, Sterling, diving, 48th among 48

• Charli Wike, Sterling, 200 individual medley, 35th among 35; 100 breaststroke, 47th among 53

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