Rally ’Cats

MHS boys swimming comes back to finish second at Bobcat Invite

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON Marshalltown sophomore Carson Beals swims in the 2x500-yard freestyle race in Saturday’s Bobcat Invitational. Beals would swim his career personal best in the race on the way to the Bobcats taking second in the 2x500 free.

Heading into Saturday’s Bobcat Invite at the Marshalltown High School pool, the West Des Moines Valley boys swimming team was the heavy favorite to take first but second place was up for grabs and the Marshalltown boys had their eyes on that runner-up spot.

Things couldn’t have started any worse for the Bobcats, however, as they finished fourth in the 200-yard medley relay to kick off the meet and disqualified in the next two events.

At the first break through the first four events, Marshalltown sat in a tie for fourth place with only 11 points, and that was including a second-place finish in the 2×50 freestyle relay right before the break.

Head coach Mike Loupee said his team didn’t have their heads in the game to start on Saturday, and he had to refocus them any way he could.

“I made it very clear to the team at the first break that I was not happy with our mental focus,” Loupee said. “Disqualifications are not acceptable, when you get to an invite and every point counts, the mental part of it is the easy part.”

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON Marshalltown’s Blaine Gunderson competes in the 2x100-yard breaststroke in Saturday’s Bobcat Invite. Gunderson held off two other competitors to give the Bobcats third in the race.

Whatever the message was during the break it clearly worked, as the Bobcats ripped off a string of three top-two finishes in the next four events to claw their way back into the fight for second place.

The turnaround actually happened right before the break, as Brad Barkema and Ryne Downey each swam a great led of the 2×50 freestyle relay to take second after back-to-back disqualifications.

Downey said the team was a bit down on themselves before that race, but after he clinched the team’s first top-two finish he could see the comeback start.

“I felt like we were starting to get back into it after that,” Downey said. “I knew I needed to go out and compete and do really well to bring us back in it as much as I can.”

Downey was also part of the only outright win of the day for Marshalltown, as he and Carson Beals combined to win the 2×100 freestyle relay with a time of one minute, 42.41 seconds.

Beals, who swam his personal best in the race, then turned around and swam the anchor leg of the 2×500 freestyle relay, outpacing Chris Repko from Cedar Rapids Kennedy to help the Bobcats secure second and close the gap on the Cougars.

Facing a decent deficit to start the anchor leg, Beals said he knew he could cath Repko he just didn’t want to expend too much of his energy.

“My goal obviously was to beat him and go ahead and get second, but I always listen to the coach and whatever he says obviously is best,” Beals said.

That message for Beals, Loupee said, was to gain on Repko early and slow to a cruising speed so he could save some energy for the final push.

“Carson Beals had a very good meet,” Loupee said. “He had some distance behind that Kennedy kid and before he got in his direction was ‘spend your energy at the beginning of the race and get even. Swim easy and then use enough to win,’ because he had to come back and anchor that next relay. Carson had four great swims and he swam in four of the last six events. That’s an awful lot to ask of a sophomore, and Carson came up big today.”

Beals swam the anchor leg for both the 200 freestyle relay and started off the 400 freestyle relay, helping Marshalltown to second place in both events. He said in his leg of the 400 he didn’t feel great, but he made it through.

“I was really tired, my head hurt and I didn’t do my best time but we still got out of there and got second,” Beals said.

Heading into that final race, the Bobcats trailed Kennedy by just one point, and they needed to at the very least place ahead of the Cougars. After the first two legs, Marshalltown, Kennedy and Atlantic were all neck-and-neck, but once Downey jumped in the water that changed quickly.

Downey swam an incredible third leg to essentially secure second place, and he said every time he takes the water during that race he wants to improve where his team stands.

“Whenever we go into the 4×100 I always try to get as much of a lead as I can just so I can help out the relay as much as I can and help out the team,” Downey said.

Gage Petty finished things off with second-fastest leg of the race and truly secured the Marshalltown comeback. Petty anchored the 400 free relay after swimming in two of the previous three races, and Loupee said the way Petty led the team during that clutch situation was exactly what he wants to see from his elder swimmers.

“Gage is swimming the 200 free relay, then he’s in the backstroke and turns around and anchors that 400 free relay,” Loupee said. “We tried to give him as much rest and recovery as possible and put him on that anchor leg. Gage ran down I think two or three guys on the second leg of the backstroke for us to finish third, and then he anchors the relay on one of our best times of the season if not the best time of our season. That’s what you expect out of your seniors.”

While the Bobcats did a fantastic job to dig out of a hole on Saturday, Loupee said moving forward they can’t plan on bringing their shovels everywhere they go.

“The point that the coaches made to the guys after the meet is you don’t win or lose a meet in the 400 free relay, you win or lose a meet in the 11 events that we have,” he said. “If we aren’t focused in the beginning and keep spotting teams points due to our lack of focus, we can’t expect to be as successful as we should be.”

Next up for the Marshalltown boys is a tough road dual against CIML Iowa foe Dowling Catholic next Thursday, starting at 5:30 p.m.

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