Photo by Theo Tate
The Alton boys’ swimming team includes (from left) Cole and Caden Akal, Alex Cook, Noah Clancy and Wesley Dugan. Not pictured is Aiden Napp.
Seven months ago, Cole and Caden Akal, Aiden Napp, Noah Clancy, Alex Cook and Wesley Dugan helped Summers-Port win its 24th straight Southwestern Illinois Swim Association championship.
Now, the six swimmers are setting their sights on helping the Alton Redbirds turn in a strong showing at the 15-team Springfield Sectional. The meet is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday at Eisenhower Pool.
“We’ll probably have a lot of seconds, third and fourths,” Alton coach Garth Akal said.
The sectional meet will include Springfield, Edwardsville, Glenwood, O’Fallon and Sacred Heart-Griffin, Belleville East, Belleville West, Highland, Jacksonville and Mascoutah, among others. Springfield is the defending sectional champion.
“The Springfield team has been super-competitive this year,” Akal said. “They’ve been breaking all kinds of records up there, so they’re going to be extremely difficult to beat in the relays. So we’re going to have people qualify individually on the times to go to state. Springfield and Edwardsville are somebody we’re going to have to battle to see if we can advance to state on the relay because you have to win a relay (to go to state).”
Cook, Napp, Clancy, Dugan and the Akal brothers were members of a Summers-Port team that won the SWISA title in July at its home pool. The Sharks won the five-team with 2,162.5 points and placed first in 34 events.
Clancy won three events in the 13-14 division and the Akal brothers combined for three first-place finishes in the 15-18 division.
Matthew Daniel, who won three events for Summers-Port at the SWISA meet, will not be able to compete in sectionals because of a shoulder injury.
“If Matthew was there, he should do well,” Akal said. “But next year should be his year because he’ll be recovering from a shoulder injury. He’s got clearance on Feb. 6 to return to the pool. He’s been kicking, but he hasn’t done any swimming with his arm.”
The Alton coach said he has high hopes for Clancy at sectionals.
“I’m expecting first from Noah Clancy in the backstroke,” he said. “He’s got a good chance to qualify for the time for the 100 backstroke and I’m hoping he’ll make it to state this year. He is young and has a qualifying time, so all he has to do is to be ready for the meet and be well-prepared and he should be able to reach that. Whether he’s first, second or third, he should qualify individually on time.”
Cook and the Akal brothers are competing in the freestyle events, Napp is swimming in the breaststroke and Dugan is competing in the breaststroke and freestyle events.
The Redbirds have been practicing at Principia College.
“We don’t have a high school schedule,” Akal said. “We compete in the (Tri-City YMCA) Tidal Waves schedule, which is the whole year. Because we’re a club team, we started training when the club season began, which was late September. This year, we’re taking the (sectional) meet a little more seriously because we have people who can finish in the top five.”