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BLOOMINGTON — There was a reason Normal West High School girls swim coach Dawn Fudge cradled the Intercity Meet trophy in her arms with such reverence on Thursday.

Her Wildcats had just won for the first time since their school opened in 1995-96.

"I'm excited to go put it in the trophy case tomorrow," said Fudge after her team scored 543 points to edge Normal Community (530) and defending champion University High (510).

West only won three of the 12 events, but that didn't matter.

"We had the depth," Fudge said. "That was the key. I'm fortunate to have girls who can swim a lot of different events. I can mix and match, which is great."

U High won six events, NCHS two and host Bloomington, which scored 381 points, one.

Arizona recruit Julia Heimstead of NCHS, Ali Pearson of West and Mara Walker of U High were double winners, but a historic diving competition stole the show.

Nataya Boulware broke the BHS school record of 243.50 points set by Keri Detrick in 1999 with a score of 256.10, the No. 2 mark in Pantagraph area history. 

Boulware had to be great just to hold off defending champion Anya Weber of NCHS, whose 254.30 has only been topped in area history by her own school record of 257.95 and the 2017 area record of 277.95 set by U High’s Dana Siverly. It was Siverly's pool record that Boulware missed by a single point.

“My front double pike — I’ve been asking my coach in practice, ‘how do I make it better?’” said Boulware of a dive that drew a nine. “It’s my strongest dive. When I saw the nine thrown, it had me shaking to the core. It surprised me so much. 

“It helped a lot (to face Weber, a fellow Redbird Diving Club member). I was thinking, ‘Oh, she’s going to get first. She’s going to break the pool record.’"

But that didn't happen and now Boulware must set her sights on bigger things.

"I want to qualify for state again," she said, "and then break 400 for 11 dives." 

Drained by training aimed for a state meet peak, Heimstead still splashed to season bests of 56.94 seconds in the 100-yard butterfly and 24.50 in the 50 freestyle.

The area record holder in the fly at 55.01 from 2017, Heimstead's 56.94 is a mark only she and two others have surpassed in area history.

“I was a little disappointed about my times,” said the hard-to-please senior, who hopes to win the state butterfly with a sub-54. "Given where we are in the season, I have faith it will get better." 

Normal West’s Pearson repeated as the 100 breaststroke winner in 1:09.99 after earlier winning the 200 freestyle in 2:02.01.

"They are not my best (times), but they are pretty good for where I'm at in the season," said Pearson, after a meet any decibel meter would surely show is the loudest Intercity sporting event. "It's crazy. I feel like it makes me swim faster because the atmosphere is so happy and exciting."  

Pearson rallied her 400 freestyle relay to victory with an electrifying 54.76 anchor split. Joining her in a season-best effort of 3:47.48 to nip U High's 3:48.42 were Nellie Sherrick (56.95), Alexa Starkey (57.82) and Chloe Nelson (57.95).

U High's Walker, a freshman, won the 200 individual medley (2:17.58) and 100 freestyle (56.36).

"We had a really good day," said U High coach Michelle Meyer, who also got wins in season-best times from Brooke Walker in the 500 freestyle (5:20.22) and Hadley Fudge in the 100 backstroke (1:02.19).

Fudge also swam on the winning 200 medley relay, which clocked a season best of 1:54.47 with help from Olivia Haerr, Mara Walker and Kendall Widdel.

Widdell and Haerr also were on the winning 200 freestyle relay, which sped a season best of 1:44.16. Joining them were Erin Stroh and Caroline Bazan.

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Contact Randy Sharer at (309) 820-3405. Follow him on Twitter: @PG_sharer

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