EAST MOLINE – There was only one thing on Newman senior Warren Melton's mind heading into Saturday's United Township Sectional swim meet: to break the pool record in the 200 freestyle.
While Melton did that, his wishes weren't specific enough for the fates.
After narrowly missing out on a trip to the state meet at last year's sectional in Rock Island, Melton's trip to the Quad Cities was much more satisfying this time around. His time of 1:44.10 in the 200 was 1.29 seconds below state cut (1:45.39), and would have been a new pool and sectional record – if not for the 1:43.70 swam by Rock Island sophomore Josh Fleming.
"I did what I wanted; he just got there before I did," Melton said. "Still, I was happy to cut time, get to my goal, and make up for missing out last year by a small margin."
Melton swam in Lane 3, with Fleming to his left in Lane 4 and Sterling junior Keaton Dir, to his right in Lane 2. Dir also swam the race of his season, but missed qualifying for state by just 11-hundredths of a second (1:45.50).
"I had to keep watch on either side for those two guys," Melton said, "and we all wanted to qualify together. Keaton was so close, and I feel bad for him, but it was fun to be between those guys. I kind of had this feeling of relaxation out there, and I'm excited about swimming next weekend."
While missing out by just a hair was a tough pill for Dir to swallow, he had very few regrets about the race he swam.
"I thought at best it was 1:46 or 1:47," Dir said, "and when I saw 1:45, I was in disbelief. That's only 1-tenth of a second off the school record.
"But then I realized it was also 11-hundredths off state qualifying, and I got a little mad. I sat down and spaced out, thinking about the race, because I swam as well as I ever have. At about the start of the third 50 is where I lost Josh and Warren, and I guess if I had picked it up a little bit there, maybe I'm swimming next weekend."
Dir's teammate Keanu Interone will join Melton in Winnetka after winning the 100 breaststroke in 56.98, setting both pool and sectional records.
The two swimmers will also have some company in the form of Sterling diver Cade Coursey. The sophomore won the 1-meter competition with 343.75 points, passing teammate Tanner Morse with his final dive. While it was a lower degree of difficulty, "He just stuck it beautifully," former Sterling coach Bob Ptak said.
Morse, a senior, took second with a 341.45.
"The whole week, our mindset was to go 1-2," Coursey said. "Every day, we'd tell each other, 'We got this.' It's already sunk in a little bit that I'll be going to state, and I'm really excited. The key will be to not stress out and try to do everything perfect in practice, instead of preparing like usual.
"Hopefully, Tanner will get to dive with me all week and next weekend as an at-large selection."
The top 32 scores among non-winners in the diving competition earn those at-large berths, and Morse was forced to play the waiting game. In the end, he came up short, as there were 47 divers among the non-winners who had scores better than his.
"I'm really proud of Cade," Morse said. "The whole week, we were both 'on' in everything we did. We started [Saturday] focused and ready to go and, since Cade made it, all of us divers get to go to state with him."
Sterling and Newman combined to win 12 medals, awarded to top-6 finishers.
Dunlap took the team title, beating defending sectional champ Rock Island 262.5-255. Sterling was fifth (131), Newman eighth (80) and Morrison ninth (31). Six pool records and five sectional meet marks were broken.
The trio of state qualifiers from UT will be joined at state by another local, Dixon senior Aaron Helander. Swimming for the Byron co-op, Helander won the 100 butterfly in 50.90 seconds, and also was runner-up in the 100 backstroke with a state-qualifying time of 51.73 seconds at the Byron Sectional
Local state qualifiers
Cade Coursey, Sterling sophomore, 1-meter diving (343.75 points)
Keanu Interone, Sterling senior, 100 breaststroke (56.98 seconds)
Warren Melton, Newman senior, 200 freestyle (1:44.10)
Aaron Helander, Dixon senior (Byron co-op), 100 butterfly (50.90 seconds) & 100 backstroke (51.73 seconds)