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URBANA ­— One emotion continually came up Saturday when local athletes discussed qualifying for the girls’ swimming and diving state meet.


Pleasant surprise, of course. Since all of those kids get one more chance to race in 2019 after thriving in their respective events at the Urbana Sectional.

There was a little extra surprise for Centennial coach Courtney Louret and her crew as the Chargers held off Uni High — 209-200 ­— for their fifth sectional championship in as many seasons.

“Quite frankly, I don’t think any of us had it on our radar that we were going to win at all,” Louret said. “This meet is always so stressful and emotional, but always so much fun.”

Diver Hannah Hong got things started on the right foot for Centennial, securing a 504.25 score that set pool and meet records.

The mark also would’ve rated second entering last year’s state showcase.

“She told me (Saturday) that she didn’t look at (the scoreboard) once the entire meet,” Louret said. “Her last dive, Emme (Pianfetti) told her to look up at the scoreboard. ... (Hong) about broke down in tears.”

Pianfetti’s runner-up 442.80 also will be good for a state spot.

Hong’s outcome, however, was the Chargers’ last event winner until the day’s final swim race.

The 400-yard freestyle relay quartet of Ava Bernacchi, Lexie Seten, Megan Bernacchi and Marin McAndrew held off the Illineks’ foursome with a clocking of 3 minutes, 46.41 seconds.

It allowed the senior Megan Bernacchi a fourth and final state appearance — alongside her freshman sister, no less.

“I just wanted my girls to experience the same things I’ve experienced,” said the elder Bernacchi, Centennial’s lone upperclassman. “Just seeing (Ava and I) both succeed like that was just the best feeling in the world.”

The 400 free relay kept Centennial from being held out of swim events at state, which starts Friday in Winnetka. It also gave the Chargers just enough cushion to top the Illineks.

“I just really didn’t want to let my girls down,” Megan Bernacchi said. “I wanted to let them know exactly what it feels like to succeed.”

The Uni High girls experienced that feeling quite a bit Saturday.

The Illineks recorded an area-leading six state berths, as well as five pool records and two meet records by time.

Broaders and Sally Ma stole the show in all regards. The junior and sophomore, respectively, started the outing by teaming with Elise Maurer and Alice Gao for a 200 medley relay pool best of 1:49.90.

“I was happiest with that,” said Broaders, the reigning News-Gazette All-Area Athlete of the Year. “I was swimming with my team, and we were all happy about that one.”

The rest of the pool records were acquired by Broaders and Ma — the former achieving hers in the 100 butterfly (55.33) and 100 backstroke (57.44), the latter snaring hers in the 50 free (23.17) and 100 free (51.13).

Both of Ma’s individual efforts also will stand as fresh meet records.

“I didn’t know I would ever vision myself up there with all those amazing swimmers,” Ma said, “but now that I’m up there, I guess that’s really cool.”

Uni High also is sending its 200 free relay unit to state after Maurer, Andrea Torelli, Angelynn Huang and Ma outpaced the field in 1:42.45.

“We’re going to be ready,” Broaders said. “It’s go time.”

Champaign Central freshman Samantha Cook will be her program’s lone representative in the state meet courtesy a pair of wins Saturday.

Cook’s 200 free time of 1:57.95 and 500 free clocking of 5:18.82 both bested all comers.

“It’s crazy. I really wasn’t expecting it,” Cook said. “I went into the meet just thinking, ‘All right, I’m going to go as fast as I can ... for my team.’”

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

Prep Sports Coordinator

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).