NORMAL — The Shark Dynasty is alive and well as the Normal Parks Swimming Sharks captured their ninth straight Twin City Swim Conference Meet title on Sunday at Normal Community High School.
"The most important thing is teaching kids how to swim and giving them a lifelong love of the sport," said veteran Sharks coach Mara Sokan.
"But 10 in a row would be epic," she added, as the Sharks moved a step closer to consecutive wins in double figures on Sunday.
The Four Seasons Stingrays positioned themselves to nearly halt the Sharks' march to the potential milestone.
Led by standout Colton Stogner, Four Seasons had a meet-high 13 different individual winners to pull to within 57 points of knocking the Sharks from the top spot.
Normal Parks scored 1,053.50 points to 996.50 for Four Seasons.
The General Electric Employees Club finished third with 757 with the Crestwicke Swim Team finishing with 303.
Stogner, a star at University High and a University of Alabama recruit, competed in his final Twin City Swim Conference Meet and captured wins in the 50-yard breaststroke, 50 backstroke and 100 individual medley events in the boys 15-18 division.
Nay Nay Missakasavake was also a triple-event winner for Four Seasons, besting the field in the 50 freestyle, 50 butterfly and 100 IM for boys 11-12.
The Sharks countered with four different triple-event winners.
Izabella Aviles won the 25 fly, the 25 backstroke and 100 IM in the girls 7-8 class.
James Lawrence won the 25 breastroke, 25 backstroke and 100 IM in the boys 7-8 division.
In the boys 13-14 age group, Samuel Fata captured the 50 freestyle, 50 breaststroke and 100 IM.
Poleena Kovalaske won the 50 freestyle, 50 breastsroke and 100 IM among girls 15-18.
General Electric's Aubrey Fair won three individual events in the girls 9-10 class, scoring victories in the 25 freestyle, 25 fly and 100 IM. Allison Straub won the 50 freestyle, 50 fly and 100 IM in the girls 11-12 class.
Sokan credits the Sharks' depth for their winning streak, as well as the team's tradition and family atmosphere.
"I have a number of families that have had members swim for me many years," she said. "It's a nice family atmosphere and I get a lot of support from them."
Sokan says this year's Sharks featured a number of second-generation swimmers.
"Their parents swam for me, grew up and got married, and now their kids are swimming with the Sharks," she said. "That's very special."
Other former Sharks swimmers have gone on to become coaches for the team. Lauren Drury and Landon Harr are coaches in this year's program who were former Sharks competitors.
This year's meet was revamped a bit with only four teams competing.
"Instead of only two swimmers per team making it to the finals, four per team would make it," Sokan said. "But we only scored eight places as opposed to 16 in years past, so the number of points available were fewer than in the past."
While the Sharks were able to edge Four Seasons for the overall team title, Four Seasons would prevail in capturing this year's Team Spirit award.