Naperville Central won the championship of the Neuqua Valley sectional in a meet that was the closest that anyone could remember with the four top teams finishing within nine points of each other.
The Redhawks came home with the trophy without winning a race, but they finished 1-2 in the diving competition, which accounted for the point difference over the two runners-up
Naperville Central, which qualified all three relays and a bunch of individual swims, finished with 184 points, with Naperville North and Rosary just behind at 179. Then it was another 4 points to host Neuqua Valley, which scored 275. Oswego East with 164, Waubonsie Valley with 149, Plainfield Central with 129 and Metea Valley with 119 rounded out the top eight.
"The girls did a great job in an unusual meet," said Naperville Central coach Mike Adams. "We survived today and next week we're going to go in and do the best we can."
The Redhawks were led by divers Sydney Dusel and Sophia Heiser who finished 1-2.
Dusel, whose victory automatically qualifies her for state, broke the pool diving record with 460 points.
And she wasn't even feeling that great, having missed school Friday with the flu.
"We were very happy with her diving," said Naperville Central diving coach David Likar. "She was a little under the weather, but we're looking at this as a step forward to next week. I think she's ready to compete for the state title. She's a tough cookie when it comes to her mental focus. She doesn't get shaken up much."
"I didn't hit all my dives today," said Dusel, a sophomore, who will be competing in her first state met. "But I hope to hit them all next week. I want to win state and I think I have a chance. I'm more excited than nervous."
If Dusel does win the state championship at New Trier next week, she will be the third Naperville-area girls diving standout to win state in the past four years. Neuqua Valley's Lauren Mikulecky won in 2010 and Taylor Kramer of Benet was the state titlist last year.
Dusel addressed the advantage of having a teammate as good as Heiser, who finished seventh at state last year and is shooting for the top six this time around.
"We're good friends and we push each other in practice," Dusel said. "That has helped motivate us and get us to the next level."
Saturday's outstanding swims included: Metea Valleys Madie Sandberg and Amanda Burson, who finished 1-2 in the 100 freestyle, and then Burson won the 50 free with Sandberg finishing third. Both girls were also members of the qualifying 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays.
Waubonsie Valley won the 200 freestyle relay, and Naperville North finished the day big with a victory in the 400 freestyle relay.
Neuqua's Natalie McGovern won the 100 backstroke.
Rosary, which was in contention to win the meet right up until the 400 free relay result, also failed to win a race, but the Beads did qualify two relays and many individual swims.
The Beads qualifiers included: Georgia Young in both the 200 and 100 freestyle, Alexis Yager in the 200 IM and 100 breast, Erin Hart in the 50 and the 100 free, Katie Rentz in the 100 butterfly and the 100 breaststroke, Annie Gosselin in the 200 IM and the 100 backstroke, Sarah Fergus in the 100 butterfly and Kate Canfield in the 100 backstroke.
"Though we came close we weren't focused on winning the meet," said Rosary coach Bill Schalz. "It's all about qualifying as many girls as you can. We got everyone through we hoped to get through except for that last relay. That was our one blemish on the day and it will make it that much harder to win a trophy next week. That is our goal after a disappointing performance last year. A lot of kids who weren't rested did well today and that makes us excited for next week."