At the end of the Panther Invitational last season, the Rock Island boys' swim team did not want to touch their third-place trophy.|
They wanted more.
By the end of Saturday's 32nd annual Panther Invitational, Rocky's swimmers could hold their first-place trophy high.
Rock Island put together a dominate performance, winning seven of the invite's 12 events, and earning 262 points over runner-up Normal Community (192.5).
Moline finished fifth (161), and United Township (142) was sixth in the the 11-team field.
After finishing runner-up at the Freeport Invitational and a third-place finish at the Burlington Invitational, Rocky was looking for a statement performance.
Top to bottom, Rocky's swimmers came through to earn their first win at the Panther Invite since 2002.
Daniel Rodriguez won the 50-yard freestyle (22.58). The senior has witnessed a dramatic change of direction.
"We want to continue to build the program as much as we can," Rodriguez said. "During my sophomore and freshmen years, it wasn't as big, but these past two years we have started to show up. We can show the state of Illinois that we can produce."
Sophomores Josh Fleming and George Pappas have contributed to Rock Island's rise.
Fleming was a double winner in the 500 freestyle (5:00.35) and 200 free (1:48.13), setting a conference-best mark in the 200 free.
"Rocky is here to stay at the top for a long time," Fleming said. "I know my sophomore classmate George and I are not going to let our team down. We have a really talented freshmen class, and I'm really fortunate I get to swim with them in practice because they are the best the Quad-Cities has to offer. I'm thankful to swim with them and create some good friendships along the way."
Touching first in the 200 individual medley (2:02.21), and the 100 butterfly (54.57), Pappas has established himself as one of the best in the conference.
But Rock Island isn't looking to get complacent.
"I really wasn't satisfied with my performance last week at the Burligton Invite," Pappas said. "Our team overall wasn't satisfied either, but we knew that we had in hard at the Panther Invite to get the win."
The Maroons put together an impressive relay performance with Alec Michna, Michael Vershaw, Matt Roche, and Fermann Flowers winning the 200 freestyle relay (1:32.15).
The Maroons' Roche has battled back from a knee injury to rejoin the team.
While Roche's knee is not yet able to kick to the degree that allows him to swim his signature event, the 100 breaststroke, his strong upper body has allows him to contribute to Moline's relays.
United Township's Jordan Witherspoon (322.60) finished runner-up in the one-meter diving to Normal Community's Ben Davis (351.60).
Rock Island's Mitchell Zagardo landed third (297.50), and UT's Mark Cervantes (282.50) finished fourth in his first time competing in the 11-dive format.
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