CHAMPAIGN — Audrey Rodawig turned in a do-it-all performance for the Centennial girls’ swimming team Saturday, and it didn’t stop when the senior got out of the water.
When teammate Marie Jefferson began her long journey in the 500-yard freestyle, Rodawig eagerly assumed lap-counter duty, keeping her best friend updated on her progress with a counter card at the far end of the pool.
And you’d never know Rodawig was coming off a shoulder injury by her rapid-fire dunking of the counter card into the water to alert an approaching Jefferson.
“I got really into it,” Rodawig said, “because she dropped a crazy amount of time.”
As impressive as Jefferson’s nearly 17-second improvement was en route to a third-place finish, no Charger had a better day at the Centennial Sectional than Rodawig.
In her first individual event, she broke the oldest record in Centennial girls’ swimming, clocking 24.00 seconds in the 50 freestyle while placing second. The previous mark — 24.05 by Marni Tobin — had stood since 1988.
Rodawig at first was unaware of her history-making feat.
“I thought I went a 25 (seconds),” she said. “I read the wrong time (on the results board), but then I saw everyone cheering. I was kind of in disbelief. Honestly, in my dreams, I had no idea that would come.”
Given that Rodawig was sidelined about two months by tendinitis in her left rotator cuff, her victory in the 100 butterfly had an element of suspense, too. But the Charger veteran was on her game, cutting 3.49 seconds off her previous season best to edge Danville’s Kristin Verkler by 0.10 second.
“I had to work really hard to rehab the shoulder so I could swim butterfly,” said Rodawig, who qualified for state in that event for the third consecutive year. “I felt great.”
Rodawig also anchored Centennial’s 200 freestyle relay to victory. A third-seeded Charger unit that included Sara Regan, Remy Miller and Emma Garcia-Canga dropped almost 61/2 seconds off its seed time to handily win what had shaped up as a tight four-team race.
After being the lone Charger swimmer to qualify for state the past two years, Rodawig will be joined next weekend at Evanston by her relay mates.
“I’ve dreamed of having my team with me (at state) my whole time at Centennial, and now I have it,” she said.
Champaign Central, which earned its sixth consecutive sectional title, will have a healthy contingent at state, too. Senior Katherine Penwell won two individual events, including her third straight 500 freestyle sectional title, and helped two Maroons relay teams place first.
Central coach Will Barker continues to marvel at Penwell’s fortitude in the face of personal pain. Her four-victory performance Saturday came less than two weeks after her mother, Jan, died of cancer Oct. 30.
“She has been absolutely amazing,” Barker said. “Considering the circumstances ... she’s been a trouper.
“You wouldn’t have known all season long the stuff she and her family were going through at home. And she was able to pull it together every time she came to practice. And she really came through today.”
KATHERINE PENWELL, Champaign Central
Maroons senior won two individual events, swam on two first-place relays and extended streak of sectional titles in 500 freestyle to three.
AUDREY RODAWIG, Centennial
Meet the new school record-holder in the 50 freestyle. Chargers senior also won fierce duel in 100 butterfly and anchored 200 freestyle relay victory.
KRISTIN VERKLER, Danville
Vikings senior set school records in 200 individual medley (first place) and 100 fly (second) while helping 200 medley relay (second) break another DHS mark.