ROCKFORD — Rochelle swimmer Alli Cole entered the water at the IHSA Jefferson Sectional on Saturday looking to become only the second student-athlete in school history to qualify for three consecutive state championships.
Cole worked hard throughout the offseason to prepare for the state series, and her efforts showed during the sectional meet, as she recorded respective times of 1:24.75 and 2:58.80 in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyles for athletes with disabilities. Cole finished first in both events, earning two sectional medals and joining former Lady Hub standout Aubrey Headon as the only three-time state qualifiers from Rochelle Township High School.
“It feels good,” Cole said. “I’ve been swimming for a long time. I swim for fun and I also compete with the [Rochelle Rays] swim team over the summer. Marianne Swanson, Jeremy Stein and my family have motivated me to keep swimming. I enjoy seeing the other kids and I enjoy trying to win. I want to do my best and I’m not going to quit.”
Cole beat her 100-yard freestyle time from last season’s sectional (3:06.29) by about 9 seconds, and she exceeded her state time in the 50-yard freestyle (1:26.71) by almost 2 seconds. Cole will race in the state championships at New Trier Township High School in Winnetka from Friday, Nov. 22 through Saturday, Nov. 23.
Cole’s historic achievement at the sectional meet drew praise from Rochelle Rays head coach Marianne Swanson, who Cole has worked with extensively in recent years. A return to the state meet her senior season would make Cole the first-ever four-time qualifier from RTHS.
“She’s history in the making,” Swanson said. “Alli is an extremely hard working and dedicated swimmer who never gives up. I couldn’t be prouder of her.”