JOHNSTON - The Summit Middle School crowd was witness to five new pool records, a list that included the state's all-time fastest swim in the 100-yard breaststroke.
While those swimmers were guaranteeing themselves a place in next week's state meet, the Marshalltown High School girls were busy wishing and hoping.
With only the event champions advancing automatically, the Bobcats left Saturday's Johnston regional meet with nothing higher than a fifth-place finish but a lot of season-best times.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Marshalltown freshman Raechel Hannam swims the breaststroke leg of the 200-yard medley relay during Saturday’s regional meet at Summit Middle School in Johnston. The Bobcat relay qualified for state with its time of 1:56.08.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Hayley Lillibridge, left, and Leah Barkema eye the clock as 400-yard freestyle relay teammate Maggie Carnahan swims the final leg of Saturday’s last race at regionals in Johnston. The Bobcat foursome including Chloe Kuehner narrowly qualified for state with a time of 3 minutes, 52.92 seconds.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
The result for MHS, however, will be only four state entrants for the Iowa Girls High School State Swimming and Diving Championships they host next Friday and Saturday at the Marshalltown Community Y.
"You walk out of here today and you're like, 'Wow, we had an awesome meet,' if you compare us to just us," said MHS head coach Angie Nelson. "It's just a little hard to separate that when you look at the results and you've got all these other teams going faster too."
The Bobcats saw time drops in 22 of 27 swims on the day, including 19 of their 24 individual races, but nothing left Summit with a state meet berth already in tow. The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union posted its cut-off times and then the 24 qualifiers for each event later Saturday, leaving a handful of Marshalltown swimmers just shy of advancement.
Regional Girls Swim Meet
Team Standings - 1. Dowling Catholic 458, 2. Johnston 441, 3. Des Moines Roosevelt 262, 4. Lewis Central 236, 5. Marshalltown 219, 6. Des Moines North 163, 7. Des Moines Hoover 159, 8. Carroll 117, 9. Council Bluffs Lincoln 54.
(Champion plus MHS placewinners)
200 MEDLEY RELAY - 1. DC 1:49.35 (new pool record); 5. MHS (Kuehner, Hannam, Kuhlman, Barkema) 1:56.08.
200 FREESTYLE - 1. McKenna Lynch, DC, 1:53.94; 8. Hayley Lillibridge, MHS, 2:04.91; 9. Melisa Fonseca, MHS, 2:08.12.
200 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY - 1. Katharine Ross, DMN, 2:06.85 (new pool record); 14. Emily Barske, MHS, 2:33.46; 16. Maggie Carnahan, MHS, 2:35.71.
50 FREESTYLE - 1. Anna Bump, DC, 24.49; 12. Leah Barkema, MHS, 26.22.
100 BUTTERFLY - 1. Bump, DC, 59.54; 6. Chloe Kuehner, MHS, 1:04.12; 11. Therese Kuhlman, MHS, 1:06.68; 14. Barske, MHS, 1:10.59.
100 FREESTYLE - 1. Lynch, DC, 52.11 (new pool record); 7. Barkema, MHS, 56.09; 10. Lillibridge, MHS, 57.47; 16. Carnahan, MHS, 1:00.09.
500 FREESTYLE - 1. Harper Emswiler, LC, 5:16.77; 12. M.Fonseca, MHS, 5:50.08.
200 FREESTYLE RELAY - 1. LC 1:39.85; 7. MHS (Lillibridge, Kuhlman, M.Fonseca, Hannam) 1:45.26.
100 BACKSTROKE - 1. Victoria Trost, JHN, 58.61; 14. Brianna Reynolds, MHS, 1:09.76.
100 BREASTSTROKE - 1. Ross, DMN, 1:03.64 (new state record); 5. Kuehner, MHS, 1:10.09; 7. Raechel Hannam, MHS, 1:11.83; 8. Kuhlman, MHS, 1:11.98.
400 FREESTYLE RELAY - 1. DC 3:35.49 (new pool record); 6. MHS (Lillibridge, Barkema, Kuehner, Carnahan) 3:52.92.
"It's definitely exciting, I like that there's one meet where you just have to wait and see," said MHS junior Chloe Kuehner. "It has its disadvantages but that's the exciting part of the high school season."
Kuehner qualified in three events for the third time in as many years but was 1.52 seconds shy of making it a 4-for-4 performance. The top five finishers from Saturday's 100 butterfly moved on to state, but Kuehner's sixth-place finish was on the outside looking in.
Kuehner and freshman Raechel Hannam both advanced in the 100 breaststroke, with Kuehner's season-best clocking of 1 minute, 11.83 seconds qualifying her 17th, while Hannam's new low time was the last at-large entrant. Fellow Bobcat Therese Kuhlman placed eighth in the breaststroke, one position and .17 seconds behind Hannam, but was denied a spot at state.
No swimmer in the state missed out by less of a margin than MHS junior Leah Barkema, whose seventh-place time of 56.09 seconds in the 100 freestyle was .01 shy of the cut-off time.
Barkema, a BCLUW prep, will advance in two relays. She is joined by Kuehner, Hannam and the junior Kuhlman in the 200 medley relay, while the 400 freestyle relay foursome of junior Hayley Lillibridge, Barkema, Kuehner and sophomore Maggie Carnahan finished .12 seconds in front of the cut-off line.
"These kind of meets are pretty much an emotional rollercoaster," Nelson said. "We taper really well at regionals and we usually have a good regional meet. We don't have the dramatic time drops - except for Melisa Fonseca today, she was the winner - but for the most part we can expect a 2-3 second time drop from everybody.
"I said it last year and I'll say it again this year, it would sure be nice to come into the regional with times that you know are solid so you don't have to do it all right here; you don't have to have the absolute fastest race of your lifetime to get (to state)."
Fonseca, a junior, posted the most prolific time drops of the day for MHS. She slimmed more than 5 seconds off her previous best time in the 200 freestyle, and then she lopped off 18 seconds for her new low 5:50.08 in the 500 freestyle.
Emily Barske, another junior, took better than 6 seconds off her lifetime best in the 200 individual medley and also shaved 2 seconds off her 100 butterfly time. Carnahan clocked 3 seconds faster in the individual medley, while freshman Ashley Hala's 4 second improvement in the 500 free was another big chuck of time dropped.
"I think as a team we did great, so many improvements," said Kuehner. "Melisa Fonseca, Leah Barkema, Maggie Carnahan, Emily Barske, everybody - it was great. So I think we have to look at those improvements too. Hopefully we'll have great events going into state but that's part of the waiting game, you don't know."
Credit the regional competition with giving the Bobcats plenty of opponents to chase after. Fourth-ranked Dowling Catholic was the team champion with 458 points while fifth-ranked Johnston was close behind at 441. No. 16 Des Moines Roosevelt took third (262), followed by No. 20 Lewis Central (236) and No. 18 Marshalltown (219) in the nine-team field.
"It's great to have a competitive region like this because you've got to compete against the strongest teams in order to see where you are and to have them pushing you to be one of the stronger teams," said MHS assistant coach Mike Loupee. "Hopefully it gives the girls things to think about in the offseason and keeps them active and gets them a little bit hungery for next season.
"The upside is we don't have any seniors in this (regional) lineup, so this group returns and if they decide they want to put some time in outside of the season they can come back and be a much stronger team next season. And we think we've got the girls who next year will put themselves in the position that they have swam those solid times and it's not as much of an emotional rollercoaster here."
Hannam and Kuhlman both took nearly 2 seconds off their breaststroke times, and Kuehner clipped 1.42 seconds off her season best, yet it was Des Moines North's Katharine Ross who took all the headlines from that race. Ross broke the all-time state record, set last year by Valley's Imelda Wistey at 1:03.75, with her regional winning time of 1:03.64. It was also one of five pool records to fall during the day.
"I think it helps you push and I think it helps you for your future when these girls can sit here and watch a 1:03 breaststroke," said Nelson. "How often does that happen? I mean you didn't even think it was possible two years ago, and then to watch her do it here at regionals? It's just amazing what girls can push themselves to do if they train for it."
Dowling captured six event victories behind the dynamic duo of Anna Bump and McKenna Lynch. Bump, a senior, won the 50 freestyle and the 100 butterfly, while Lynch captured the 200 freestyle and the 100 freestyle.
Ross also broke the pool record in winning the 200 individual medley. Ross and the junior Lynch shared Region Athlete of the Year honors.
"This regional is really tough, Dowling and Johnston really power out of this meet," said Kuehner. "I think it's great to be able to compete against the top (swimmers) in the state because that prepares you for state when you get there. Today's kind of a mini-state meet, you could say."
The state meet begins with Friday's diving competition at 5 p.m., while the swimming portion is Saturday beginning at noon.