Swimming: Cole medals twice at IHSA Byron Sectional

RTHS senior caps off accomplished high school career

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BYRON — Rochelle senior Alli Cole was disappointed when she learned she would be unable to represent her school in the IHSA State Championships for the fourth straight season due to the coronavirus. The Lady Hub swimmer didn’t allow the tough news to hold her back from capping off her career with a tremendous effort during the IHSA Byron Sectional on Saturday.

The culmination of Cole’s hard work and perseverance was evidenced at the sectional meet, where she won two first-place medals in the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard breaststroke for athletes with disabilities. Cole clocked in at 1:09.51 during the 50-yard freestyle, which resulted in her best time for the event in any IHSA postseason meet throughout her high school career.

“I thought I swam really well,” Cole said. “The sad part was not having the chance to go to state for my fourth year of high school. My coaches pushed me to continue swimming and the support from my family and the community has been great. I knew I would have been the first swimmer from Rochelle to qualify for state four times, and that really motivated me.”

Alli Cole 2_1

Cole’s 50-yard freestyle time was also a roughly 15-second improvement from her times at the sectional and state meets during her junior season. Cole finished the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 3:36.69. Cole had swam the 100-yard freestyle over the past three seasons, but she said she was motivated to swim the breaststroke in order to challenge herself.

“I thought I tried harder during the breaststroke,” Cole said. “The breaststroke has a lot more steps involved and I wanted to really push myself to work harder on that stroke so I could possibly do the event at the state meet… I’m definitely going to miss the competition.”

The sectional meet was conducted without spectators and only a few media members present. While Cole said she missed the competitive environment, she said she was able to focus solely on completing her races. Cole finishes her prep career as a three-time IHSA state qualifying swimmer, only the second in RTHS history, and the school’s first four-time sectional medalist.

“I definitely missed seeing the other girls getting on their knees at the edge of the pool and encouraging me to finish,” said Cole, who also swims with the Rochelle Rays summer program. “I’m going to continue my lessons and I’m hoping to somehow be able to compete again.”