The Paddlers defeated the Summers Port Sharks in this year's SWISA Meet. (Photos by Dan Brannan)

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GODFREY – In the end, the final margin was razor-thin.

The Paddlers Swim Club edged Summers Port Swim Club Sharks 1,849 to 1,848.5 for the Southwestern Illinois Swimming Association championship on Sunday at Summers Port pool.

The Paddlers win stopped a 24-consecutive SWISA title streak of Summers Port. The Splash City Gators of Collinsville finished third with a total of 1,554.5 points, while the Water Works Marlins of Edwardsville came in fourth with 1,408 points and the Sunset Hills Stingrays, also of Edwardsville, finished fifth with 966 points.

A total of 11 new records were set during the meet, with the host Sharks accounting for seven of the new marks. Matthew Daniel set a new meet record in the boys’ 15-18 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:46.64, while Anna Moehn set two records in the girls’ 13-14 group, taking the 200-yard freestyle in 2:00.58 and the 100-yard backstroke in 1:03.91. Moehn was also part of the girls 13-14 200-yard medley relay team, along with Riley Clancy, Leah Pohlman and Jen Whetzel, that set a new record for the event with a time of 2:03.84.

The boys’ 15-18 relay team of Daniel, Caden Akal, Noah Clancy and Cole Akal also set a pair of new records, winning the 200-yard medley relay with a time of 1:39.79, and the 200-yard freestyle relay, taking the event in 1:28.20. Clancy also set an individual mark in the 100-yard individual medley winning in 54.86

Nearing the halfway point of the meet, Summers Port coach Nancy Miller was very pleased with the efforts of her team.

“Well, so far, so good,” Miller said. “Our team has broken about four records, and we’ve had a lot of good surprises, people dropping time. So it’s been a very good meet so far, very pleased.”

Miller was very optimistic that her Sharks’ team would bring home yet another SWISA championship to the club.

“I’m holding my breath, but I’m confident, hopeful,” Miller said with a smile. “But I’m still holding my breath,” she added with a laugh. “I never count my chickens before they’re hatched. Every race is important, every swim is important.”

Going into the second half of the meet, Miller felt her swimmers were strong enough to bring the title home.

“Oh, yeah,” Miller said. “We’re really strong in our (individual medley), breaststroke, the (butterfly) and the (backstroke). We’re going to finish well.”

And assessing her team’s overall performance for the season, Miller was very happy for her swimmers, especially those who got a late start in the sport.

“I’ve had kids, brand new kids, that have started kind of late in their swimming life,” Miller said, “who have really risen to the challenge, and performed really, really well; I’m so happy. I just had a girl drop 10 seconds in the 50 (freestyle), that’s 9-10. It’s a huge time drop. I’m so proud of her.”

The Marlins’ Cohen Osborn had another record-breaking day, setting three marks in the boys’ 11-12 age group. Osborn won the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 25.25 seconds, the 100-yard individual medley in 1:02.62 and the 50-yard backstroke with a time of 28.45 seconds. The girls’ 13-14 200-yard freestyle relay team of Isabella, Savannah and Autumn Grinter and Ally Janson set a new record in winning the event, coming in at 1:47.30.

Marlins’ coach Spencer Sholl though his team had swam very well, even with his team not at full strength.

“I think this meet is going extremely well,” Sholl said. “We’re short on numbers by quite a bit, and with having less than half of our team. But our swimmers are really showcasing their abilities, and having some really fast races.”

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And Sholl was very pleased with his team’s overall body of work during the 2018 season.

“I think overall, my team has had a really fantastic season,” Sholl said. “We’ve accomplished a lot, we’ve gained a lot of skills. When I started, I set out that I wanted the kids to have a good time, and to learn a little bit and improve their times. And all across the board, I see that most of my swimmers have improved their times, and I know we’ve had a good time doing it. I’m really pleased with where we’re at. I know SWISA is a much more difficult meet than most of the other meets we’re in, but I still think we’re doing really well, and I’m really happy with it.”

The Stingrays can point to four individual champions during the meet: Owen Gruber, who won two events, the boys’ 13-14 100-yard freestyle and 50-yard butterfly, Tom Hyten, who also won two events, the boys’ 13-14 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard breaststroke, Rachel Johnson, who took the girls’ 9-10 50-yard freestyle and Eddie Foppe, champion of the boys’ 7-8 25-yard breaststroke.

Stingrays’ coach Dan O’Keefe was pleased with his club’s efforts.

“We’ve had some best times, which is very good, we’re racing very hard, very happy with that," O'Keefe said. "Our goals were for the swimmers to swim their best times."

O’Keefe was very pleased with his team’s overall performance during the season.

“Overall this season, very happy with it,” O’Keefe said. “We’ve executed a lot of things we’ve worked on, and felt we identified the things we need to work with.”

In the leading individual scorers for the girls’ division, Laine Curry of the Pirates led the way in the eight-and-under group with 48 points, Parker LeVasseur was the leading scorer in the 9-10 group, also with 48 points, Addie Bicanic of Splash City won the 11-12 group with 45 points, Autumn Grinter and Moehn tied in the 13-14 group with 48 points each, and Emily Webb of Paddlers scored 48 points to lead the way in the 15-18 group.

On the boys side, Jackson Suhre of Paddlers won the eight-and-under category with 45 points, SummersPort’s Jack Rea scored 48 to lead the 9-10 group, Osborn also scored 48 to lead the way in the 11-12 group, the Marlins’ Evan Grinter scored 48 in leading the 13-14 age group, and both Clancy and Daniel each had 48 points to lead the 15-18 bracket.

All three coaches are already looking ahead to the 2019 season, and each is optimistic about their clubs.

“Well, I only have two seniors leaving the team,” Miller said. “They’re two really good seniors, Cole Akal and Matthew Daniel, and that’d be a loss. But to only lose two and not a whole lot is really good. So I think we’ll be strong again.”

O’Keefe is looking ahead as well, and will prepare his team for the upcoming challenges.

“We’re looking forward to preparing the kids who are aging up to compete against kids that are older, bigger, stronger than them,” O’Keefe said, “and then firing up the ones that are still in their age group to make a run at a high point trophy for their age group next year.”

Sholl is looking to build upon the momentum his team gained this season, and looks forward to more success in 2019.

“I’m hoping that next season, we can build onto this,” Sholl said. “I know we have the biggest team now than we’ve ever had, and last year, we had the biggest team up to that point. So if we can just keep building up our team, and to keep gaining those strong, fast swimmers that we know for, I know that we’ll be OK. I’m hoping that next year, we can come and bring an even bigger team to SWISA, and hopefully accomplish more.”

And the coaches are very appreciative and grateful for the support of the parents and volunteers that play a big role in a club’s and meet’s success.

“Just thank everybody for coming out, and certainly all the volunteers; you know, it’s a big effort to put these things on,” O’Keefe said, “and appreciate the coverage from (the media).”

“I’m just grateful for all the parent’s support, the manager’s support here at SummersPort,” Miller said, “and I’m grateful for the kids working so hard.”

Dan Brannan also contributed to this story.

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