’Cats nearly reel in Cougars

MHS boys’ swimming team can’t keep pace with Cedar Rapids Kennedy

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE • Nick and Caleb Summers lead other members of the Marshalltown boys’ swimming team in a mock fishing expedition to reel in the last Bobcat swimmer in the pool during Saturday’s Bobcat Invitational at MHS. The Bobcats finished fourth out of six teams, falling just short of their bid to get ahead of Cedar Rapids Kennedy for third.

As secure as fourth place seemed to be, third place was equally enticing for the Marshalltown boys’ swimming team.

Tied for third place in the team standings with Cedar Rapids Kennedy with four events to go, MHS was forced to settle for fourth at its own Bobcat Invitational on Saturday at the Marshalltown High School pool.

The Bobcats, listed 31st in the latest edition of the state’s power rankings, tried to stay in stride with No. 18 Kennedy once they saw themselves all square with the Cougars at the second intermission. Propeled by an event championship from Coert Groff and Caleb Summers in the 2×100-yard butterfly relay, Marshalltown appeared to be free and clear of Newton/Colfax-Mingo/Pella and started to pursue another spot up the ladder.

The Bobcats did not waver in their chase, but Kennedy simply had more speed down the stretch.

Seventh-ranked West Des Moines Valley ran away with the team title with 80 points, followed by Atlantic (61), Kennedy (51), Marshalltown (43), Newton (35) and Waterloo West (31).

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE • Marshalltown’s Coert Groff swims the anchor leg of the 2x500-yard freestyle relay during Saturday’s Bobcat Invitational. Groff and Pom Pinitchan placed third in the race in a combined time of 10 minutes, 59.83 seconds.

“I told the kids at the beginning of the day that if we could press and get fourth place, it’d be a good day,” said MHS head coach Mike Loupee. “You get greedy fast because we were right there with Kennedy. If fourth place would be good, third place would be great for us. We hung with Kennedy right up until the last couple of events.”

In addition to the butterfly triumph, the Bobcats got a runner-up performance from Pom Pinitchan and Gage Petty in the 2×200 freestyle relay, and a trio of third-place finishes after a rousing reminder during the first intermission of what the day’s goals were.

“I think we were tired a little bit from the week,” Loupee said, “and the first couple of events we kind of got steamrolled. The kids who swam did a good job and had season-best times, but they’re just not maybe as competitive as they would like to be.”

The Bobcats finished sixth in the meet-opening 200 medley relay, and a disqualification kept MHS from getting any points in the 2×200 individual medley relay. But a third-place effort by Ryne Downey and Summers in the 2×50 freestyle got Marshalltown headed in the right direction, and Groff and Summers scored the team’s only event victory in the following race.

“The ball started rolling a little bit slowly, but we gained momentum in the 50 and a lot in the [butter]fly and the rest of the day the kids had their heads in it and they were fired up and ready to go,” Loupee said. “At the first break I pulled the kids together and told them it looked like we might be on a little bit of a Saturday morning sleep-in and I was more concerned about those technique things. We were lazy off some walls and [we had] a couple of DQs, and as a coach it’s frustrating to spend a lot of time in practice on those things and then you see the exact opposite of what you’re hoping for.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

“So I gave them a slightly more than gentle reminder that we need to be smart when we’re swimming. We can’t just be swimmers, we’ve got to be smart swimmers.”

Downey and Summers teamed up to time in at 49.52 seconds to finish third in the 2×50 freestyle. Two races prior, Pinitchan and Petty clocked in at 3:54.39 to place third in the 2×200 freestyle.

In the first race out of the intermission, Groff posted a lifetime-best time and Summers had a season-best mark to get the Bobcat pair to the top of the podium in the 2×100 butterfly relay in 2:12.62.

“Both those guys had season-bests, and that’s what you need to do if you’re going to compete with quality teams like Valley and Atlantic,” Loupee said. “I’m very happy for Caleb Summers. He had a quad[riceps] problem after his 50 and was a little concerned about his butterfly. He was third place when he hit the water and the crowd got excited and he responded to the crowd noise and had a season-best time and won the event. That’s a great win and should help his confidence a lot.”

Carson Beals and Downey earned fourth in the 2×100 freestyle, and Pinitchan and Groff followed by finishing third in the 2×500 free. Coming out of the final break tied for third place with Cedar Rapids Kennedy, the Bobcats’ quartet of Downey, Beals, Pinitchan and Petty placed fourth in 1:37.26, and Beals and Petty came in third in the 2×100 backstroke.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

But Kennedy finished atop the field in the 2×100 breaststroke to put enough distance between itself and the Bobcats going into the 400 freestyle relay. Downey, Beals, Petty and Pinitchan took fourth in the final race, and Marshalltown tried to be content coming away with fourth place when it entered the day aiming for it.

“Yeah, we were talking about fourth place, but let’s get greedy and shoot for third,” Loupee said. “The kids saw the scores and the kids are competitive, and when I talked to them after the meet I could see a little disappointment in their eye and that’s not necessarily a bad thing — to not be satisfied. That’s what keeps the fire burning in the belly and gets them to come back and continue to work in practice.”

With a week off prior to the Bobcat Invite, Marshalltown’s training regimen resulted in 11 lifetime-best times and 22 season bests in Saturday’s meet despite the heavy load of yards logged in practice leading up to it. MHS now has five of practice to continue its training while recovering from a solid showing that included finishing ahead of a Newton team ranked two spots in front of it.

The Cardinals come back to the MHS pool on Thursday, joined by Dowling Catholic for a double dual.

Bobcat Invitational

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

Team Standings — 1. West Des Moines Valley 80, 2. Atlantic 61, 3. Cedar Rapids Kennedy 51, Marshalltown 43, 5. Newton/Colfax-Mingo/Pella 35, 6. Waterloo West 31.

EVENT RESULTS

(Champion plus MHS placewinners; * — new meet record)

200 MEDLEY RELAY — 1. Valley 1:44.16; 6. MHS (Groff, N.Summers, C.Summers, Streets) 2:00.45.

2×200 FREESTYLE — 1. Atlantic 3:46.26; 2. MHS (Pinitchan, Petty) 3:54.39.

2×200 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY — 1. Valley 4:34.26.

2×50 FREESTYLE — 1. Valley 44.88; 3. MHS (Downey, C.Summers) 49.52.

2×100 BUTTERFLY — 1. MHS (Groff, C.Summers) 2:12.62.

2×100 FREESTYLE — 1. Valley 1:39.45; 4. MHS (Beals, Downey) 1:45.73.

2×500 FREESTYLE — 1. Valley *10:02.68; 3. MHS (Pinitchan, Groff) 10:59.83.

200 FREESTYLE RELAY — 1. Atlantic 1:32.84; 4. MHS (Downey, Beals, Pinitchan, Petty) 1:37.26.

2×100 BACKSTROKE — 1. Valley *1:51.81; 3. MHS (Beals, Petty) 2:02.20.

2×100 BREASTSTROKE — 1. Kennedy 2:20.93; 5. MHS (Barkema, N.Summers) 2:44.60.

400 FREESTYLE RELAY — 1. Atlantic 3:24.38; 4. MHS (Downey, Beals, Petty, Pinitchan) 3:36.75.