Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2013, 10:53 pm

Rocky swimmers finish unbeaten dual-meet season

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By Chris Steele,

Since their Western Big 6 Conference championship in 1991, Rock Island'sswim program has been looking up at the rest of the conference.

Not anymore.

Rock Island put the finishing touches on an undefeated dual-meet season with a 107.5-78.5 win against United Township at the Panther Pool Thursday night.

"It's been a very long time since Rock Island has gone undefeated in a season," Rocky coach Grant Bramer said. "We had a team meeting where we talked about our end of the season goals. One of our goals was to go undefeated. I think this will help build momentum as we go into the conference meet and sectionals."

Rocky won 10 of the 12 events against United Township, making the Rocks look primed for a run at the Western Big 6 Conference title Feb. 8 in Galesburg.

Josh Fleming was in total control for Rock Island with wins in the 200 yard freestyle (1:49.98) and the 500 free (5:04.65).

"I never really thought about this at the end of last season," said Fleming of the unblemished season. "This year, so many guys have been stepping up, and are pushing each other. It has always been one big team experience, and we want what's best for each other."

Rocky's George Pappas continued to glide through the water, claiming another pair of victories in the 200 individual medley (2:07.55), and 100 butterfly (55.72).

Rocky's top line talent has pushed the team further than ever before, Daniel Rodriguez earned a win in the 50 free (23.26), and Kurgan Macias swam to wins in 100 freestyle (52.79) and 100 breaststroke (1:07.85).

Freshman John Ponsetto, who won the 100 backstroke (58.60), attributed his team's re-emergence to its depth.

Rocky's freshman class has raised the level of competition and helped supply that depth.

"It started for me last year just watching the team," said Ponsetto, who was a part of two relay wins. "I told myself I wanted to be a part of this team. I'm glad that I can be a part of this. From here on out, every point counts in every race."

After graduating two pillars of the Panther swim program, Matt Dassow and Felipe Hernandez, United Township showed that it was not going to be taken lightly at conference.

The Panthers proved just how far they have come this season, finishing closer in the team score to Rocky than any other conference team in a dual.

"Fast times and everyone has to swim their best," Austen Willhite said. "We have a lot of juniors, and hopefully we can all step up and be a lot like Dassow."

On senior night, Panthers' junior Jordan Witherspoon (177.00) just held off senior teammate Mark Cervantes (173.20) in diving.Last season, Cervantes showed natural ability after working with Panther product Josh Stice and diving coach Alan Dassow.

"They have taught me well," Cervantes said. "They wanted more out of me this season, and I'm giving them all I can."