GALESBURG — The Moline girls' swim team has gone from conference drought to potential dynasty in just the past few years. After a 30-year wait, the Maroons are back-to-back Western Big 6 Conference champions.
After ending a 12-year drought of conference titles a year ago, the Maroons claimed a second straight Big 6 Meet title Saturday afternoon at the Galesburg pool.
Moline totaled 321 points as a team, ahead of Galesburg (251) and Rock Island (219). Sterling’s swimming co-op with Rock Falls (210) finished fourth in its first time as a member of the conference, followed by United Township (117). Quincy and Geneseo did not compete.
Moline’s Big 6 repeat was its first since a run of conference titles from 1985-88.
A strong group of seniors and yearly contributions from hungry new swimmers has made for a dominant couple of years for Moline.
“It was a good win for the girls,” said Moline coach Michael Roche. “They deserve it and they worked hard all year.”
The Maroons’ lead began when senior Taylor Puglisi won her third straight conference diving title Saturday morning at the Knox County YMCA. Puglisi’s score of 426.35 set a Big 6 Meet record, surpassing former Maroon Katherine Douglas’ mark of 421.05 from 2016.
Puglisi beat her personal best 11-dive mark of 419 from two years ago, adding an all-new difficult dive and altering the position on another. Puglisi also juggles her diving with junior-varsity swimming, making the diving three-peat and conference record all the more satisfying.
“I definitely knew the conference record was one I had to beat, so I’m very happy to have gotten that,” said Puglisi, who also set the pool diving record at Galesburg. Pleasant Valley grad and University of Iowa diver Claire Park held the previous high from 2014. “I have two more I want to get; I want to get the sectional record and the 11-dive record.”
She already has Moline’s six-dive record, and is within reach of Douglas’ 11-dive school record of 433.90 from 2016.
Moline senior Olivia White won her third straight 500-yard freestyle title with sophomore teammate Clara Van Note the runner-up. She felt happy to contribute to the title repeat after helping to end the drought last year.
“Getting two in a row, it really feels good to end my senior year with something like that,” White said. “It feels like we’ve been a team for such a long time. Winning something together means so much more.”
With many varsity swimmers not being fully rested until the Nov. 16 sectional at UT, time drops were a challenge.
Fellow senior Gabbi Lopez won a second straight 200 IM conference title and added the 100 butterfly title.
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“The team worked really hard this season, I’m just proud of everyone,” Lopez said. “Even though we’re really tired, we pulled out another win and it feels great to know that our hard work paid off.”
Sophomore Maroon Sophie Greko added to her breakout season. Saturday, she won the 200 free (White was runner-up) and edged Galesburg senior Hailey Glasnovich in the 100 free with a PR of 55.13. Glasnovich was defending conference champ in the event and qualified for state in it at last year’s sectional. She won the 100 backstroke Saturday.
“That felt really good and I was definitely really happy with my time,” Greko said. “With the offseason, and the coaching, the team and everyone has been pushing me this year. I think it’s just all helped move it along and I’m really grateful for that.”
Greko, White, Van Note and Lopez paired to win both the 200 and 400 free relays. Van Note was also third in the 100 backstroke and CC Cervantes had bronze in the 100 fly.
Moline sophomore Dylan Shrake (267.10) took third in diving behind Galesburg’s Molly Pettit (284.90), but was stuck with a failed dive after the fulcrum on the diving board moved as she got to the end, which affected her dive.
The Rocks got an event win from Olivia Sholl in the 100-yard breaststroke. The sophomore was happy the Rocks could reclaim the event, in which Rocky grad and current Valparaiso University swimmer Mikayla DePover set the conference record last year.
“I liked how I had Moline people push me, too,” said Sholl, who was runner-up in the 200 IM, “because Mimi (Trenary, 2nd) and Annika (Zemek, 3rd), they did put up a good race.”
Allyson Smithson (200 free), Anna Rowell (50 free), and Madelynn DePover (500 free) all earned bronzes for the Rocks and dropped time. DePover dropped over 10 seconds in the 500 and the Rocks took third in the 200/400 free relays.
“Our whole team swam well today,” Rocky coach Dave Busch said, though RI’s 200 medley relay had a DQ. “I was really happy with all of them.”
Rock Falls senior and Southern Illinois commit Lauren Moeller was runner-up in the 100 back and won the 50 freestyle for Sterling’s only event win.
Moline junior Katy Wyffels set a JV record in the 500 free with a 5:45.97. The JV came into the meet fully rested, but her time would have been good for third in the varsity race.
Sterling won the battle for second in the final event of the afternoon, the 400 free relay. It was also easily the loudest finish, which was amplified by how close the race was down the stretch. The crowded seating just feet from the pool length also makes for a loud atmosphere.
Seniors Aviva Brenner, Megan Christensen, and Moeller paired with sophomore Rebecca Riley to post a 4:02.52, just ahead of Rock Island’s 4:02.84. Moeller swam the final leg to help secure the runner-up relay to Moline’s 3:52.96.
“Her favorite thing to do is to be in that 400 free relay and have someone to kind of chase down, and she was able to do that today,” Ruiz said of the relay’s anchor, Moeller. “It’s always nice when she gets the opportunity to do that and is successful at it.”