EAST MOLINE – There was no collective gasp like in the movies, but Sterling senior Keanu Interone sure turned some heads by putting on a display worthy of Hollywood.
The defending sectional champ and last year's state runner-up in the 100 breaststroke showed everyone he's ready to make a bid for the title this season. He shattered the United Township pool record and his own sectional record with a time of 56.98 seconds Saturday at the UT Sectional.
"There's your state champion right there," Rock Island coach and former Sterling swimmer Grant Bramer said to no one in particular, shaking his head after Interone's time was posted.
"You were like smoke in the water, man," Newman coach Gary Miller told Interone as he congratulated the Golden Warrior with a slap on the back.
Interone's time was well under the state-qualifying mark of 1:00.83, and one of only two in the state's 16 sectional meets to break the 57-second barrier; Lakes senior Kyle Aerne, who took fifth last year at state, swam a 56.74 at the Vernon Hills Sectional.
Only two other swimmers broke 58 seconds at sectionals, with 10 more finishing under 59 seconds and 23 others breaking the 1-minute mark. Interone's runner-up time last year was 57.55, 11-tenths of a second behind Edwardsville's Maxwell Byers, who now swims at Penn State.
"I felt fast in the water," Interone said, "but I had no idea I swam under 57 until I looked at the time. I thought I'd be lucky to get the pool record, but when I saw the 56.98, I thought, 'Yes! Wow! Amazing!' "
Instead, Interone shattered his own sectional record of 59.18, set last year at Rock Island, and also beat Matt Elliott's pool record of 57.20 by 22-hundredths of a second.
All the more impressive was the fact that Interone was forced to rise to a challenge. After not swimming the event all season due to a knee injury, Moline's Matthew Roche blazed to a state-qualifying 58.96 in the "slow" heat. He swam that first heat because he had no time with which to seed him for the sectional. Interone admitted to taking notice of Roche's time, but said he wasn't so much worried about beating it as he was happy for his friendly rival.
"I usually keep in my own mindset, so it wasn't like I was chasing him," Interone said. "I was just so excited for him, just to see him go that fast in his first competitive run of the season."
Interone and Roche will be joined at state out of their sectional by Dunlap senior Andy Cooper, who swam in the lane to Interone's left. Cooper's time of 1:00.25 was good for second place in the final heat and third in the event, and cleared the state cut by 58-hundredths of a second.
Always the perfectionist, Interone said he'll watch the tape of his race, as usual, and find something to nitpick and improve upon. Ruiz will push him, saying after the race, "There's always room for improvement; unless you broke the world record, you didn't swim a perfect race."
The field at state will be stacked, as all but two of the 16 sectionals sent multiple swimmers to state in the event. Nine competitors from both the Glenbrook South and Neuqua Valley sectionals beat the state cut in the 100 breaststroke, and seven did so at Lyons.
But Interone will be ready, and says the key to his success next weekend in Winnetka will be to enjoy his final high-school meet to the fullest.
"As long as I keep having fun, I'll keep swimming faster," Interone said. "I'm going to keep taking it easy and relaxed in practice, because when I start to stress on the little things is when I start slipping in the water. It's been a great season, and I'm going to have fun and enjoy it for 1 more week."
Keanu Interone swam the 100 breaststroke in a personal-best 56.98 seconds Saturday at the United Township Sectional in East Moline.
• That time broke his own sectional record of 59.18, set last year at Rock Island
• It broke the UT pool record of 57.20 held by Richwoods' Matt Elliott, a 7-time state champion from 2008-11
• And was nearly 2 seconds faster than the runner-up in the event, Moline's Matthew Roche (58.96).