Water beaded on Cade Coursey’s skin, and the Sterling sophomore couldn’t help but shiver as he stood next to the diving well at the Duis Center.
Coursey’s wet hair was matted to his forehead in the front and spiked out in a dozen different spots along the sides and back of his head.
Coursey is honest. At least he’s honest about diving, the topic of conversation leading into this weekend’s state swimming and diving meet at New Trier High School.
He has a goal. Not a championship – which senior teammate Keanu Interone has in his targets in the 100 breaststroke. But like Interone, Coursey hopes to make an impact for the underdog school in a sea of sharks from the big city.
“I want to get in the top 25,” Coursey says, knowing his sectional score seeds him 47th out of 48 qualifiers. “I know first isn’t possible, but I know top 25 is. I want to prove a point.”
A top 25 finish as a sophomore would do that. With two more cracks at the state meet, it would say that Coursey could be a contender down the road in the single-class sport.
It’s a point very similar to the one Interone made as a sophomore 2 years ago. In 2011, Interone finished 15th in the 100-yard breaststroke, missing the finals cut by a half of a second.
“It’s a very similar path for Cade that Keanu took,” Sterling coach Kyle Ruiz said. “They both missed state as freshmen, and then made it as sophomores.
Keanu didn’t make finals as a sophomore and then made big strides the next season. Hopefully, that’s the route Cade takes.”
Interone returned to state last season and jumped up the field 13 spots to second, 36-hundredths of a second behind state champion Chad Church, a senior from Gurnee Warren.
His sectional championship time seeds him in that same position heading into Friday’s preliminaries, his time of 56.98 seconds behind only Lakes junior Kyle Aerne’s 56.74. Aerne finished fifth last year.
Most of the field has not seen Interone since last year’s meet. That’s the way he likes it.
“I like being in that position,” Interone said. “They don’t pay much attention to us out here. I’ve always been competitive and push myself to get faster. It’s about believing in yourself and putting in the work.”
Interone understands the history of his quest for a state title. He grew up watching local swimming icons like James Wike and Steve Yemm as a member of the Sterling Stingrays. Like Wike (Auburn) and Yemm (University of Illinois-Chicago), he’ll continue swimming in college at the University of Utah.
“I remember being a little Stingray, and looking up to guys like Steve Yemm,” Interone said. “That’s who I wanted to grow up and be like. I knew if I could get to the point where they were at this age, that I’d be able to go on and swim in college.”
Interone has a real opportunity to join the most exclusive club associated with Sterling swimming – the state champion club. Right now, it has one member in Wike, who won four titles from 2000 to 2002.
The two Warriors are not the only locals taking a dip in the state meet pool.
Dixon senior Aaron Helander sits in good position in two events as a member of the Byron co-op.
Helander’s sectional times in the 100 butterfly (50.90) and 100 backstroke (51.73) place him the top 12. He is seeded 10th in the butterfly and 11th in the backstroke. That would get him into Saturday’s finals and a chance at a state medal.
Helander has qualified for state in each of his 4 years in high school. He did not compete at state his freshman year after qualifying, because he came down with pneumonia. He was about a second away from qualifying for the finals in both the fly and backstroke last year.
Newman’s Warren Melton qualified for state in the 200 freestyle. The junior is making his first state appearance and his sectional time of 1:44.10 seeds him at 31st.
“My season-long goal was to be swimming on Saturday at state,” Melton said Saturday at the United Township Sectional, “but I won’t think about that now until I finish Friday first. I’m just going to have as much fun as I can and try and win ... against the clock, not necessarily the whole thing.”
State swimming meet
When: Preliminaries today; Finals Saturday
Where: New Trier High School, Winnetka
Advancement: Top 12 times in each event advances to Saturday’s finals.