Girls swimming and diving: Neuqua Valley ends season in style
McKenna Stone and her Neuqua Valley teammates collectively plunged underwater to pose for pictures, then took a few more pool side.
It was a day to savor.
A most unusual season won't end at state this year, what Stone and Neuqua are used to, but this was the next best thing.
Stone, a UC Berkley recruit, captured four of Neuqua Valley's eight first-place finishes in the pool, and the two-time defending state champion Wildcats won their third straight sectional title on Saturday at Metea Valley.
Stone, who last year won Metea Valley's first state title in swimming in the 100 butterfly and has won 12 state medals total, transferred to Neuqua this school year. Back at her old school, she smashed pool records in the 200-yard individual medley (2:00.75), 50 freestyle (22.70), 100 butterfly (53.04) and 100 breaststroke (1:01.77).
"Given the circumstances were in, and what we were given, I'm really proud of what this team accomplished," Stone said. "It wasn't how I expected it to happen, but that's kind of the theme of the season is you have to go with what's going to happen. You can't expect too much, you can't really have expectations, you just have to be flexible. I'm honestly just super proud of my whole team because we had incredible times."
Stone's last race, the 100 breaststroke, is the one she said perhaps surprised her the most.
"I've never really trained for it, we just wanted to see how I would do with it and I ended up dropping a second and a half," Stone said. "I was thank for the opportunity; coach could have easily put someone else in and said you're done."
Neuqua's Rachel Stege won the 200 freestyle (1:46.40) and later came back to blow away the field in the 500 freestyle (4:40.03), both pool record.
"This team, we really stepped up; it's more than anyone could ever ask for," Stege said. "We weren't expecting anything, we didn't even know if a season would happen. For us to have this season end like this at this meet felt so good."
Neuqua's Jane Riehs won the diving competition with 450.75 points and Megan Ciezczak won the 100 freestyle in 50.42.
Neuqua's 302 points easily outdistanced runner-up Oswego Co-op, second with 235 points. Naperville North (190) was third and Rosary (172) fourth.
Rosary's Jessica Geriane was the lone non-Neuqua event winner, taking the 100 backstroke in a pool record 54.77 seconds.