There is excitement in the pool at Marshalltown High School in 2012. And it mainly starts with the fact that head coach Angie Nelson has her biggest roster of athletes since she became affiliated with the program six years ago.
The Bobcats will have 39 athletes on this year's squad, which will help Nelson improve on depth issues the program has faced in the past.
"It takes depth to win swim meets and we definitely have much more depth this year than in any other year I have been a part of the team," Nelson said. "I am looking forward to working with the depth this season. It is the first time I can field an entire varsity lineup and an entire junior varsity lineup, so we are excited."
Nelson not only welcomes in a large roster. She also brings back four juniors who advanced to the State Swim Meet in 2011. That will provide her squad with good leadership at the top of her lineups.
Leading the way is junior Chloe Kuehner, who swam in the 200-meter individual medley at state last season and also was a part of both the medley relay and the 200-meter free relay. Kuehner was 21st as a sophomore in the 200 IM and the relay squads finished 20th and 22nd overall.
"She worked hard all summer, and I am expecting her to come out running this season where some of the other swimmers are still trying to get in shape," Nelson said. "Those four returners who went to state all worked hard this summer. They are the core group of swimmers that we will look to to lead us in points at the meets."
Marshalltown Girls Swimming Schedule
Aug. 23, at Hoover, 5:30 p.m.
Aug. 28, VALLEY, 5:30 p.m.
Sept. 6, at CR Washington, 6 p.m.
Sept. 11, MASON CITY, 6 p.m.
Sept. 15, BOBCAT INVITE, 9:30 a.m.
Sept. 18, SOUTHEAST POLK, 5:30 p.m.
Sept. 25, NEWTON, 5:30 p.m.
Oct. 2, FORT DODGE, 5:30 p.m.
Oct. 6, at Johnston Invite, 9 a.m.
Oct. 9, at Ames, 5:30 p.m.
Oct. 13, BOBCAT DIVING INVITE, 10 a.m.
Oct. 16, Conference Diving, 5 p.m. at Fort Dodge
Oct. 18, Conference Swimming, 5 p.m. at Fort Dodge
The other three swimmers Nelson is referring to are juniors Leah Barkema, Therese Kuhlman and Hayley Lillibridge.
Barkema swam with Kuehner on the medley relay and 200-meter freestyle relay teams. Kuhlman also was a part of the medley relay. Lillibridge and Barkema both return as members of the state qualifying 400-meter freestyle relay team that placed 17th last season.
"The nice thing about these four girls is that I can move them around to various spots because they are very versatile," Nelson said.
Kuehner excels in the individual medley and the breaststroke, Barkema's best events are freestyle and backstroke and Kuhlman competes well at the individual medley, breaststoke and butterfly. Lillibridge excels in middle distance freestlye events.
Filling up the roster to provide the depth that Nelson spoke of will be several other swimmers, including sophomore Maggie Carnahan, junior Emily Barske and sisters Janet Fonseca and Melisa Fonseca.
"This group worked hard all summer and will be more versatile pieces we can use to fill out the varsity lineup this season," Nelson said.
The Bobcats welcome back three returning divers this season in junior Phoebe Lynk, junior Kathleen McHenry and senior Kristina Nugent.
Lynk and McHenry were both just six or seven points off a state berth last year. Nelson said one adjustment can help her divers advance to state.
"They all work hard, but they need to improve their level of difficulty," Nelson said. "They know this though. When they do that, they will have a much better chance to get to state."
Nelson said a big reason why the numbers have grown so much this year is due to a large freshman class, a strong feeder program and getting a few athletes out that have never swam before. The freshman class this season includes 11 athletes.
"We expect to compete better in meets now that I have more depth," Nelson said. "I think we'll surprise some people by how many we have out. We just want to improve our times as the season goes along, too."
Nelson, who starts her fourth year as head coach, said the new CIML divisions didn't change much in swimming. The conference teams still include defending champion Ames, West Des Moines Valley (top three at state), Mason City, Fort Dodge and Waukee.
Nelson admits it will be tough to beat Ames and Valley head-to-head, but expects to be more competitive against teams like Des Moines Hoover, Southeast Polk, Cedar Rapids Washington and Newton-Colfax-Mingo-Pella, which the Bobcats will face heads up in dual action this season.
"I'll know more about what I have after our first dual Thursday," Nelson said. "We need to find out where we can put people to score the most points. We got a good group of kids, and we have potential to do good things. We need to get into the racing mindset, and we'll be fine."
The Bobcats open the season Thursday in Des Moines against Hoover. The first home dual of the season comes against powerhouse West Des Moines Valley on Tuesday.