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NORMAL — Among the fastest swimmers in the world for her age, Grace Ariola demonstrated where she stacks up locally during Thursday’s Intercity Meet at Normal Community High School. 

The University of Texas recruit won the 50-yard freestyle and 100 backstroke while leading the Iron to victory with 431 points. Defending champion University High was second (397) followed by Normal West (328) and Bloomington (167) on night when three Pantagraph area records fell along with four pool records. 

“I was very excited for their swims,” said NCHS coach Heather Budak. “They’re tired (from training). Most of their swims hurt pretty bad, but they had some really good results.” 

Ariola’s pool and school record of 23.04 seconds in the 50 free also broke her area record of 23.24. In the 100 back, she narrowly missed her area record of 54.27 with a 54.77. Only two girls in state history have gone faster than her. 

Ariola “was pretty happy” with her 23.04, a time only 10 girls in state history have surpassed. 

“I’m still about a second off my best time (set in the off-season), but to be there right now is pretty good,” she said. 

Ariola also helped her 200 medley relay clock a pool record 1:47.36 and her 400 freestyle relay notch an area, school and pool record 3:32.03, both with help from Julia Oostman, Julia Heimstead and Ashley Bengtson. 

Heimstead led off the 400 free relay in 52.70. Next came Oostman (56.00), Bengtson (53.31) and Ariola (50.02). All four are members of YMCA Waves. 

“We’ve all known each other forever,” Ariola said.

The medley relay opened with Ariola scorching the backstroke in 25.94. Oostman split a 31.48 breaststroke leg before Heimstead motored 25.31 in the fly and Bengtson 24.63 in the freestyle. 

Heimstead also captured the 100 butterfly (56.13) and 200 individual medley (2:07.54). Her pool and school record butterfly broke her area record of 56.22, but she wanted more.

“I kind of wanted to go 55.5, but I was pretty close,” she said. “The practices have been so hard (this season) so we’ve been really broken down.” 

Only eight girls in area history have blitzed the IM faster than Heimstead, whose previous best was 2:07.73 from last year. Pushing her was U High’s Lilly Culp (2:08.73), who later won the 100 breaststroke (1:06.26). 

Bengtson, the No. 2 seed in the 100 free, won that event over BHS star Macy Rink, 53.33 to 53.69, as both clocked season bests. 

Another double winner was Duke-recruit Melissa Pish of West, who dominated the 200 freestyle (1:51.94) and 500 freestyle (4:57.43) and sparked her 200 freestyle relay to a winning 1:41.54 with a sizzling 23.80 split.

In the 500, Pish missed her season best of 4:55.49, but only six others in area history have gone faster. 

After battling a cold this week, Pish thought her times were “pretty good for this point in the season with all the training and everything. It was a fun meet.” 

Pish’s relay partners were Emily Tung (25.67), Alexa Starkey (26.15) and Nellie Sherrick (25.92). 

U High diver Dana Siverly defended her title by scoring 231.50 points. Her area record of 277.95 was out of reach after she balked during the approach on her fifth dive, the double pike, an infraction that drew a two-point deduction. 

“This is the first time I’ve done that so it was kind of unnerving,” she said. “I tried to put in a few dives that I was a little bit unsure about like my back one-and-a-half pike. I wanted this to be a growth meet so I didn’t expect a really high score.”

Follow Randy Sharer on Twitter: @PG_sharer



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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