CHAMPAIGN — Jon Delzell had more to swim for more than a state berth.
Like the memory of his late father, Jack, who died unexpectedly in December.
The Danville senior would have made his dad proud Saturday afternoon during the Champaign Central Sectional at Unit 4 Pool.
Delzell won both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races to qualify for the state meet next weekend at New Trier High School in Winnetka.
Delzell clocked in at 21.79 seconds during the 50 freestyle to break a school record before he won the 100 free in 48.48.
After he won the 50 free, Delzell donned a necklace his father used to wear. He said his father wasn’t far from his mind.
“I did it for him,” Delzell said. “Doing this for him means more than any record or going to state ever will.”
Delzell’s swim in the 50 free eclipsed the school record established in the late 1970s by Stan Jackwoski.
“Since I started swimming, this is the one record I wanted to break,” Delzell said. “I can’t even talk right now. I finally got it.”
Danville coach Carl Long paused several times after seeing Delzell’s effort.
“It doesn’t get much more emotional,” Long said. “It’s pure joy, excitement and relief. You get tied in with the kids and learn what makes them tick. To see him finally swim what he is capable of is a big reward.”
The host Maroons came away with the sectional plaque, compiling 275 points to finish ahead of runner-up Centennial (213.5).
Two Central relay teams qualified for state — the 200 medley in 1:42.2 and 200 freestyle in 1:31.1. Ashi Bhatt, Evan Miller, Garrett Barnard and Payton Woods led the way in the 200 medley, while Miller, Woods, Brandon Bell and Barnard closed out the 200 freestyle.
Woods swam anchor on the medley relay and Barnard ended the freestyle relay in style.
“They’re a real close team, and they perform well in high-pressure situations,” said Central’s Will Barker, who, along with co-coach Ben Trupin were named sectional coaches of the meet. “Everybody dropped time. Garrett is our most experienced guy in that situation, and he was so calm and cool. He just brought it. Payton is a natural. He’s got a lot of talent and he knows how to focus in, so I see really great things coming from him in the next few years.”
Centennial made sure the Maroons wouldn’t sweep all three relays. The quartet of Evan Peirce, Logan Starks, Scott Wierschem and Heath Rogers helped the Chargers finish first in the 400 freestyle event with a time of 3:24.13, which was well below their seed time of 3:41.52.
“Going into it we had a game plan where we were going to load up,” Centennial coach Jason Maddux said. “It’s just awesome to be able to do it at the end of the meet when they’re all tired, and they still showed up for the last event.”
Rogers eked out a win in 58.41 during the 100 backstroke, clipping Christopher’s David Bunting (58.46) at the wall.
“I couldn’t see the scoreboard or anything (after the race) because my goggles were all foggy, but I saw my team go crazy,” Rogers said. “I thought I had lost it on the final turn because I thought it was too slow. I was just shocked and completely surprised that I ended up winning.”
Urbana senior Tony Perrote won diving with a score of 302 and is the Tigers’ lone individual that will compete in Winnetka.
Sullivan will have representation at state. Senior Brock Bales won the 100 butterfly in 53.76 and placed second in the 100 breaststroke (59.86) behind Alexander Keller of Effingham St. Anthony (58.72), but Bales’ time was under the state qualifying standard of 1:00.83.
“You train all year long and it finally pays off when you get your best times,” Bales said. “Most people play football or basketball (at Sullivan), but this year we had a lot more kids come out.”
Bales’ father, Scott, is Sullivan’s coach, and he handed his son the first-place medal after the 100 butterfly.
“There was just a lot of pride because he’s just worked his tail off,” Scott Bales said. “Swimming’s kind of an underappreciated sport, and it’s good for any kid to make state, especially a Sullivan kid.”
Chaz Centore, West Frankfort
Centore, who swam as part of the IHSA’s inaugural year of allowing athletes with disabilities to compete, drew raucous applause after he completed his first swim in the 200-yard freestyle. He will compete in four events next weekend at state.
Jon Delzell, Danville
The Vikings senior shined in his two freestyle events, setting a school record in the process in the 50-yard freestyle, and will make his first state appearance next weekend.
Brock Bales, Sullivan
The senior won an individual event (100 butterfly) and earned a trip to state in the 100 breaststroke to join Delzell as a qualifier in two events.
Area state qualifiers
200 medley relay — Champaign Central (Ashi Bhatt, Evan Miller, Garrett Barnard, Payton Woods)
200 freestyle relay — Champaign Central (Miller, Barnard, Woods, Brandon Bell)
400 freestyle relay — Centennial (Heath Rogers, Evan Peirce, Logan Starks, Scott Wierschem)
100 backstroke — Rogers, Centennial
50 freestyle — Jon Delzell, Danville
100 freestyle — Delzell, Danville
100 butterfly — Brock Bales, Sullivan
100 breaststroke — Bales, Sullivan