Marshalltown secures girls’ swim meet through 2022

The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union and the Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA have agreed on another contract, but both parties prefer to call it a partnership.

After 14 years of presenting the Iowa Girls’ High School State Swimming and Diving Championships together, the IGHSAU and the Marshalltown Y announced today that the event will remain in Marshalltown through 2022.

“We’ve had a successful partnership with the IGHSAU since we began hosting the state meet and they have a lot of confidence in Marshalltown’s ability to host a state event,” said Carol Hibbs, the Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA’s Chief Executive Officer. “And we have a lot of confidence in our volunteers and the community support. They really put a high value on that so we’re pleased they have decided to renew the contract for another five years.”

The previous five-year contract between the governing body in girls’ high school sports in Iowa and Marshalltown’s Community Y came to a close with the Nov. 3-4 state diving and swimming championships, nearly three months after the Iowa High School Athletic Association elected to award its state meet to the University of Iowa’s Campus Recreation and Wellness Center Natatorium.

That gave local leaders pause with the location of future girls’ state swimming and diving championships pending.

“We were on pins and needles,” said Val Ruff, executive director of the Marshalltown Convention and Visitors Bureau, “but we were confident they were going to make this decision, so now we can take a breath and we’re going to take really good care of them.”

No matter how self-assured community leaders were, Hibbs was aware of the doubts after the IHSAA moved the boys’ state swim meet to Iowa City for the next three years following 13 winters in Marshalltown.

“Certainly there were questions that we were aware of that were posed to the girls’ union,” she said, “but we have been in discussions for a few weeks about renewing the contract and we were hopeful we would get it.

“We talk each and every year about what we can do to improve it, what we can do to make the experience better for swimmers and coaches and fans, however this year it was a conversation that had a little bit more importance.”

The IGHSAU made it clear that Marshalltown’s host entities — the YMCA-YWCA, Marshalltown High School, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and innumerable volunteers — were committed to keeping the girls’ state meets at home.

“There’s so many things Marshalltown does as our host to make the championship experience one the girls will remember,” said IGHSAU Executive Director Jean Berger. “Marshalltown was our choice, as a staff when we talked it over, pros and cons — our partnership and their willingness to work with us in being a partner, we feel like Marshalltown is the right choice.

“They take great pride in it. Carol and her staff and the fact that Marshalltown High School helps us as much as they do, it’s really a team effort and I think it’s good for Marshalltown and I think it’s an all-win for us in terms of the things Marshalltown brings to the table that fit into our core values.”

Berger would not disclose the other applicants for hosting the girls’ state swimming and diving competition, but expressed that the patrons’ experience was just as important to the IGHSAU as that of the swimmers and coaches. The University of Iowa has less seating than the Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA, and it runs along only one side of the competition pool.

“When we talk about a championship venue, it’s not always just about the competitive venue,” Berger said. “We want our girls to have the best experience they can possibly have. They may go on and swim [at the next level], but nothing beats a state championship with your teammates, so I think part of that experience is the atmosphere you’re creating. You’ve been to Marshalltown: it rocks!”

The Iowa Girls’ High School State Swimming and Diving Championships were held in Fort Dodge from 1974 to 2003 before Marshalltown’s YMCA-YWCA opened the doors on its new Horne-Henry Center in Jan. 4, 2004, with the idea of hosting a state meet in mind.

The IGHSAU brought its girls’ swimming and diving competition to Marshalltown that November and hasn’t left.

“I think our reputation proceeds us for putting on state meets for both the fan and the athlete’s experience,” said Ruff. “I think the association has a lot of confidence in the leadership in our staff at the Y. We’re excited. I think it speaks to our community as a whole, our leadership and the facilities.

“We were sad to lose [the boys’ state swim meet], but we’re hopeful it will come back. We wish them well over [in Iowa City] but if for some reason it wasn’t what they’d hoped for, we’ll welcome them back to Marshalltown.”

Ruff, who often hears how much people still miss entertaining half of the IHSAA’s state baseball tournament in July, acknowleges what these types of events mean to Marshalltown.

“It becomes a part of the fabric of your community,” she said. “We’re elated they’re going to keep it local.”