Walking the halls at last weekend’s IHSA State Swim Meet, Daniel Rodriguez and his father Mario were approached by a parent from a Chicago area school wanting to compliment them.
According to Rodriguez, their words were simple: “Rock Island has really put themselves on the map,” he said.
“Being a downstate school, it was nice to get recognition from (people from) one of the upstate schools,” said Rodriguez.
One of Rocky’s goals this season was to garner that attention and prove that they consistently belong among the state’s elite teams.
This week’s Metro Pacesetter for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus was also able to distinguish himself among the elite field with a 12th-place state finish in the 50-yard-freestyle. The senior’s :21.82 clocking earned him a medal.
“You have to kind of leave your mark,” Rodriguez said. “It’s important to leave something behind that you can be remembered for your senior season. I think bringing the guys together, and showing them that no matter how many guys are on the team, that you can always have fun and be a family together was my way of doing it.”
Rodriguez helped lead Rock Island to its first Western Big 6 Conference title since 1991.
At the sectional meet, Rodriguez realized his goal of swimming the 50 free in 21 seconds in winning the event in 21.60 with a United Township High School pool record.
“When you are working so hard to drop just a few tenths, it’s so great when it all comes together like that,” Rodriguez said.
At state, he found a way to drop more time, reaching the consolation finals with a ninth-place finish of 21.48 in the prelims.
Yet, the moment that Rodriguez said helped define his season came at sectionals.
Rock Island was considered the underdog to Dunlap at the state-qualifier. But winning the opening event — the 200 medley relay (1:37.44) with a sectional and pool record — changed everything.
“We just realized that we could compete,” Rodriguez said. “All the self-doubt, team doubt and everything went away in that moment. I just realized that you are swimming for something bigger than yourself.”
Rodriguez went on to qualify for state in four events — the 200 medley relay, 50 free, 100 butterfly, and 400 free relay.
And while he will be moving onto college next year and continue his swimming career, Rodriguez thinks that Rock Island will remain a part of the state swimming landscape for years to come.
“I see a great program developing here,” Rodriguez said. “With the young guys that we have on the team, it looks good in the future.”
Metro Pacesetter — Rock Island’s Daniel Rodriguez
Favorite movie: Limitless
Favorite music: Kid Cudi
Favorite food: Burgers
Favorite class: Calculus
Favorite athlete: Steve Prefontaine
Favorite thing to do on a snow day: Hang out with friends
Parents: Mario & Anne Rodriguez, Rock Island