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Bobcats ready to ‘cash in bank account’

November 2, 2012
By TROY HYDE - T-R Assistant Sports Editor ( , Times-Republican

The bank account is full. And it's time to cash in the money, according to Marshalltown High School junior Chloe Kuehner.

Kuehner is one of five Bobcat swimmers who will be competing in the Iowa State Swimming and Diving Championships on Saturday at the Marshalltown YMCA, and all five swimmers believe there is still a lot left in the tank ... or bank.

"I am really excited, and we are hoping our past experience helps us," Kuehner said. "We have been putting all of our money in the bank account. It is time to cash it all in."

Article Photos

Marshalltown’s girls’ swim team will take part in the Iowa Girls High School State Swimming Championships at the Marshalltown YMCA on Saturday. From left, Raechel Hannam, Melisa Fonseca, Chloe Kuehner, Maggie Carnahan, Leah Barkema, Therese Kuhlman and Hayley Lillibridge will represent the Bobcats. Kuehner and Hannam will both swim in the 100-yard breaststroke, while MHS also will be featured in the 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay.

Kuehner will swim with freshman Raechel Hannam in the 100 breaststroke and also will compete in the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay. She also is one of three Bobcats who will be making their third appearance in the meet that features the state's best swimmers, joining juniors Leah Barkema and Therese Kuhlman.

"We have an amazing opportunity to swim the fastest we have swam all season at state," said Barkema, who will swim in both relays. "We have a lot left, and we are saving our best for Saturday."

The Bobcats enter the state meet with what they called subpar qualifying times in the two relays. And MHS coach Angie Nelson feels a little bit more rest this past week will help them when they hit the pool this weekend.

"The goal is to move up in their placing and improve on our times," Nelson said. "The girls were rested for regionals but not enough. I think we are much more rested for state and that should show up in the times."

It also helps that most of the swimmers competing Saturday have been in the state meet before and should know what to expect from the heavily intensified atmosphere.

"They have been here before and will know what to expect," Nelson said. "They are also in a great situation this year. They'll have a chance to rest after that first relay, and they won't be on edge all day."

The Bobcats will begin the day competing in the very first event of the afternoon. The 200 medley relay will consist of Kuehner, Barkema, Hannam and Kuhlman. The alternate will be Melisa Fonseca.

"We feel confident this year, but it is weird because we are used to be the young ones," said Kuhlman, a three-time state qualifier. "I can help this team improve on time by fixing the little things and having a better start."

After the medley relay, the Bobcats will not return to the pool until the very last two events.

Kuehner and Hannam will swim together in the 100 breaststroke and then the foursome of Kuehner, Kuhlman, Lillibridge and Barkema will compete in the 400 freestyle relay.

"I think the team is a much closer knit group than maybe we were last year because most of us are in the same class," said Lillibridge, who is making her second trip to the state meet. "We have each other's backs. I still think we can drop a lot of time."

Kuehner competed in the 100 breaststroke at state during her freshman season at Marshalltown. She placed 19th that year with a time of 1 minute, 10.06 seconds. She is hoping to set a new personal best Saturday, which would mean she would have to hit the 1:09 mark on the clock.

"I am really happy Raechel is in this event with me because it makes it more fun to swim in events with your teammates," Kuehner said. "I am looking forward to that the most."

Kuehner said that her and Hannam and quite alike in how they each handle certain situations. The junior has tried to help Hannam prepare for the state meet in any way she can but knows it may just be something you can't experience until you do it.

"It'll be a fun experience for her," Kuehner said. "She has worked hard this year to get here. I am proud of her."

Nelson said that it is long overdue for Kuehner to eclipse that 1:10 mark again. And she is confident that her experienced junior is up for the challenge.

"There is a lot to be said about being comfortable and confident," Nelson said. "She is confident in her abilities and is a competitor. She is capable of getting under 1:10. I hope we see that Saturday."

Hannam just hopes to swim as fast as she possibly can.

"I am looking forward to getting out there and swimming my very best," said Hannam, who admitted that she didn't even expect to be swimming at state this season. "Chloe has been very encouraging and helps me stay positive throughout the entire race."

The final event of the day for the Bobcats will be the final event of the day at the state meet. Kuehner, Barkema, Lillibridge and Kuhlman will swim in the 400 relay. Sophomore Maggie Carnahan is the alternate but actually was part of the foursome at regionals that qualified for the event.

"We can improve our times this season by just doing things you are supposed to be doing anyway but sometimes lose track of when you are swimming," Nelson said. "We need to do great underwater work, have great streamlines and strong pushes and we need to come into the wall hard."

The 200 medley relay will be in lane 7 of the opening heat. The Bobcats qualified 22nd overall. Kuhlman, Barkema and Kuehner competed with graduated senior Mackenzie Beals in the medley relay at state last year and placed 22nd. In 2010, Kuehner and Kuhlman were on the team as freshmen and helped the Bobcats place 18th.

The 400 freestyle relay team will be in lane 1 of the first heat later in the day. The Bobcats enter the meet with the 23rd best qualifying time at 3:52.92. Lillibridge and Barkema competed with Beals and Elizabeth Barske at state last year and placed 17th. Barkema also was on the team in 2010 as a freshman and the Bobcats took 20th that season.

Both Kuehner and Hannam will be in the pool at the same time during the 100 breaststroke. Kuehner will be in lane 4 and qualified 17th. Hannam will swim in lane 8 and was the final qualifying time. Kuehner was 19th in the breaststroke as a freshman in 2010 and also placed 21st in the 200 IM as a sophomore.

"The key at state is to just stay in the meet because it is so easy to get psyched out," Nelson said. "Until you experience it, you won't know what it is like. It is unlike any other swim meet. But we have plenty of swimmers who have been there before."

A big team goal, according to Nelson and several of the swimmers, is to crack the team standings scoreboard. To earn points in the team standings, competitors must place in the top 16. The Bobcats cracked the board in 2010 but did not appear in the team standings last season.

"I think the most important thing for us is to drop time," Kuhlman said. "We want to move up in the standings, but I think we'll be happy if we continue to drop time."

The best chance of placing in the top 16 based on qualifying times would be Kuehner, who enters Saturday's 100 breaststroke just one spot out of the 16th and final placing spot. And she is ready to show that the Bobcats belong on the big stage.

"We weren't fully tapered for the regional meet and didn't perform at our best in a lot of events," Kuehner said. "We have a lot to prove, and I think we can do a lot better than what our qualifying spots say."

The Iowa High School State Swimming and Diving Championships will begin with diving at 5 p.m. tonight. The swimming portion of the meet starts with the parade of teams at noon Saturday. Action in the pool should begin around 12:30 p.m.

Ames sophomore Maggie James, the defending state champion, had the top qualifying score in regionals. James is one of 15 returning qualifiers from last year's field. West Des Moines Valley seniors Ashlyn Clingman and Julie Dickinson became four-time qualifiers and both placed in last year's top five.



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