NORMAL — "Shark Week" is always a big audience grabber during its annual appearance on television.
In Bloomington-Normal, it's "Shark Sunday" that's become the norm.
For the sixth straight year, the Normal Parks Swimmin' Sharks captured the Twin City Swim Conference finals on Sunday at a steamy and raucous Horton Pool.
Helping the Sharks outdistance the Four Season Stingrays were record-breaking performances by Samuel Fata and Poleena Kovalaske.
Kovalaske led the way for the Sharks with victories in three events in the Girls 13-14 division. Her 30.52 in the 50-yard breaststroke was a meet record, bettering the previous record mark of 31.23 set by Brianna Hines in 2010.
"It feels great," said Kovalaske. "I was really working hard for it, so it feels great that I got what I was working for."
Kovalaske, who will be a freshman at University High School this fall, also won the 50-yard backstroke and 100 individual medley (IM) events.
Sophie Parson also won three events for the Sharks in the Girls 11-12 division, taking victories in the 50-yard butterfly, 50-yard backstroke and 100 IM.
Fata's 16:53 in Saturday's preliminaries in the Boys 9-10, 25-yard breaststroke eclipsed the 16.73 of Mitchell Sauder in 2012 and established him as the clear favorite in Sunday's finals. Although a tick slower on Sunday, the youngster still outpaced the field for the first of his two wins for the Sharks.
"At the beginning of the year I thought it was going to be really easy, but after the first meet, I was like, 'this isn't going to be easy,'" said Fata.
Buckling down even after his record-breaking performance, the youngster went on to also capture the 100 IM.
As a team, the Sharks tallied 2,349 points to top the Stingrays (2,063.50).
Emily Tung and Colton Stogner each won two individual events for the Stingrays, who were runner-up to the Sharks for the second straight year.
"It's pretty exciting," said Stingrays coach Alex Hembra. "Our team has just continued to blossom and grow."
Stogner is on the U High swim team and is a perennial winner at the Twin City Conference meet.
Tung won for the first time ever with victories in the 50-yard freestyle and 50-yard butterfly in the Girls 13-14 division.
"I mainly just focused on improving myself instead of looking at my competitors, because that's more important to me," said Tung, who has been swimming since first grade. "It feels great. I feel ecstatic. It's awesome."
The Marlins, led by brothers Paul and George Isaacs, finished third with 1,814.50 points. Each of the Isaacs brothers captured three events, as did teammate Kyle Kiper.
The General Electric Employees Club (1,679) had a pair of three-event winners and finished fourth overall in the meet. Kenna Malinowski won the Girls 7-8, 25-yard freestyle, 25-yard breaststroke and 100 IM. Gena Mendez won the 50-yard freestyle, 50-yard butterfly and 100 IM in the Girls 15-18 division.
Crestwicke Country Club (850) and the Bloomington Parks Dolphins (484) rounded out the field in fifth and sixth, respectively.
The Sharks had completed an undefeated season in dual meet competition before scoring the conference finals win. Coach Mara Sokan, who's been involved with the program for more than a quarter-century, says winning the title never gets old.
"I've got several kids whose parents I coached and now their kids are growing up Sharks, as well," Sokan said. "I look around and see all the kids and all the parents having a blast and it's just wonderful every single year."