Return of the ’Cats

Marshalltown boys set to compete in first state swim meet since 2015

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Seven Marshalltown boys are representing the Bobcats at the 2018 IHSAA State Swimming Meet in Iowa City on Saturday. Pictured are, from left, Chris Streets, Ryne Downey, Carson Beals, Gage Petty, Brad Barkema, Caleb Summers and Nash Perisho.

Marshalltown was dealt a bit of a blow last summer when it was revealed that the IHSAA State Swimming Meet was moving out of the city and to the University of Iowa campus for the foreseeable future.

With that knowledge and the fact that the team hadn’t qualified anyone for state in the previous two years, the Marshalltown boys swimming team started the season with a simple goal, just send someone to represent the Bobcats at state this year.

MHS well exceeded that goal in its district meet last Saturday, sending five total qualifiers across four events to Iowa City and ending a three-year-state drought. Ryne Downey will compete in both the 50-yard freestyle and 100 freestyle, while Carson Beals joins Downey in the 100 free as an individual. Marshalltown also has both the 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams at state, with Downey, Beals, Gage Petty and Brad Barkema swimming the 200 and Downey, Beals, Petty and Nash Perisho going in the 400.

Head coach Mike Loupee said that drought was the first time in his knowledge that the Bobcats had no representative at state, and considering he’s only the third coach in the history of the program, it felt like he wasn’t doing the right things to get his guys to the show.

“We have had our ups and downs, and in our community that’s the way swimming has always ebbed and flowed, whether that’s boys or girls,” Loupee said. “To not qualify anybody the last couple of years, it’s been personally frustrating and I feel like I’ve let down the program history a little bit, but I wouldn’t trade the kids we’ve had and they’ve always done what they’ve been asked to do. It’s nice that these kids get an opportunity to go to the state meet.”

Loupee also said, considering the meet was moved from their hometown, he is happy that Marshalltown will have seven people wearing the blue and red, when you factor in alternates Chris Streets and Caleb Summers.

“It’s nice they get to go the first year it’s been moved away from Marshalltown in 14 years,” Loupee said. “To have them be able to be a part of the next transition of state swimming, I am pleased and proud of them.”

It has been a journey for all five of the qualifiers who made it this year, and all five of them have taken unique paths that got them to this level.

Downey qualified in all four events he swam at districts, an accomplish by itself. His time of 21.76 seconds in the 50 free was good enough to land him in the final heat at state, meaning it was one of the top-8 qualifying times swam. Downey said he is honored to be in the final heat of the fastest race, and he doesn’t care that he is currently seeded last in that heat.

“I don’t mind being in the outside lane, I am really excited that I get to be in the fast heat,” Downey said. “On the bus ride back from districts I was on the website just refreshing because I knew it was going to be really close and I wanted to see if I was going to make it or not and where I would be at.”

Loupee said, outside of top-qualifier Caleb Gaylor’s time of 21.00 seconds for Newton/Colfax-Mingo/Pella, the times in the 50 free are all relatively close, so “that is going to be whoever rises to the occasion on that day.”

Downey said he actually shaved more time off of his 50 free than he expected, but he still sees some areas he can improve.

“I cut a lot more time than I thought I would, I was hoping to get a low 22 but I ended up with that high 21, which is really exciting,” Downey said. “Hopefully I can go faster, that’s the goal. I need to kick more, I get told that a lot, I also need to finish my stroke and have a better start and a better breakout. Better turn, better dolphin kicks, everything can be better all the time.”

Loupee said Downey has been the ultimate leader for his team this season, and though he is only a junior he’s been the guy encouraging everyone to strive for greatness.

“Ryne this year has matured greatly as a swimmer. He has been here every day, he has led every set and every yard all season long,” Loupee said. “His work ethic has tremendously improved and he is obviously reaping the benefits of that.”

Beals, Marshalltown’s other individual qualifier, has also come a long way since last season. Loupee said it is difficult for freshmen in the program at first because of the increased amount of work in the pool, but once the initial shock wore off Beals came out on the other end stronger.

“Carson as a sophomore has a lot of talent. This year he improved his work ethic quite a bit from his freshman year,” Loupee said. “That first year as a freshman, the amount of yardage they do is kind of a shock to the system. He had a very good freshman year, and he’s had a more successful sophomore year, and I think he sees that if he puts in the offseason work and continues to work in the water he has two years to develop into a very strong swimmer, one of the better ones in program history if he decides he wants to do that.”

Though Beals swam his fastest time of his career in the 100 freestyle last Saturday, he said he actually felt relatively slow, and he thinks there is a lot of time he has left to cut.

“I actually kind of felt slow, just because I was in the second heat. I didn’t have many people to race, but it was still exciting to get out of the water and see my time and look at my coach and see what happened,” he said. “My turns were very sloppy, as was my start. My suit filled up with a lot of water on my turns, so that wasn’t very good, I can improve a lot on my turns and just some small little things that drop a little amount of time that just improves it.”

Beals has a history with Bobcat swimming, as all three of his older sisters came through the program and competed at state. Loupee said he expects Beals and his sisters have quite a bit of chatter amongst them, especially since he’s the youngest.

“Carson is the baby and the only boy, so he’s got his first trip to the state meet as a sophomore so I am sure there is some banter between he and his sisters,” Loupee said. “He has an opportunity to have a special career here if he continues to work and develop.”

Beals said the desire to be better than his sisters is absolutely a motivating factor.

“I definitely have that drive,” he said.

Petty is the only qualifier who was on the team three years ago when the Bobcats last sent representatives to state, though he was a junior varsity competitor at the time. He said it’s been a goal of his to compete for Marshalltown at state since his freshman year, and he is happy to accomplish that goal during his senior season.

“We haven’t gone the last two years and I didn’t get to go my freshman year, I just saw all the big dogs going and I thought ‘yeah, I want to be that some time,'” Petty said. “Luckily this year we made it, but we worked hard though and we earned it.”

Loupee actually points at Petty as the main guy he thinks can cut down some time in the relays because he didn’t see as much of a cut at districts and he is only swimming in the two races.

“Gage had a good meet at districts, but he didn’t drop quite as much time as everybody else so I am kind of hoping he drops a little more this Saturday,” Loupee said. “Big, strong, long kid, when he hits his turns he can gain half a body length on anybody. His turnover speed was much better at districts, it’s too bad he’s not swimming the backstroke but he will have rest between the two relays.”

Fellow senior Barkema is someone Loupee has praised all year for the work he puts in, though at times it didn’t show in his finishes. Barkema plays football for BCLUW during the fall, and Loupee said the muscle groups worked in football and swimming are almost polar opposites. Because of how muscular Barkema was at the start of the season, it took a while to get his muscles loosened up and ready to compete in the pool, but Loupee said once they finally got Barkema loose he’s been an asset to them in the water.

“Brad’s an athlete, he’s a big, strong, muscled kid. The one thing I am extremely proud of with him is he came back to swimming for two years and this year he has worked extremely hard,” Loupee said. “As a sprinter, his times didn’t always drop, and he had to mentally be tough enough to live with the disappointment of not always being faster and he had faith in the fact that when we rested him a stretch, he was going to go fast. I am very happy that he has had good times and that not only his hard work but his faith paid off.”

Considering he doesn’t go to school at MHS, there could have been an issue with Barkema meshing with the rest of the guys on the team, but he said that has never been a problem.

“The coaches and teammates have welcomed me with open arms, these have been some of the best months of my life,” Barkema said. “It’s really been a fun time.”

Perisho has arguably made the most growth over his first two years with the team, as Loupee said the sophomore was a completely blank slate when he started.

“I smile about Nash because when he started as a freshman, coach [Sam] Backstrom and I were thinking ‘who’s going to get in the water and teach him how to swim.’ He was very raw and very rough, and he has improved tremendously,” Loupee said. “He has great enthusiasm, he is very coachable and to not be a competitive swimmer and two years later be swimming in the state meet, that’s a credit to his work ethic and his coachability.”

As for his thoughts on competing at state, Perisho said it’s almost a surreal feeling considering where he started.

“It’s just weird to know I just did it even with me not swimming before last year,” Perisho said.

With Marshalltown competing in four of 11 events, obviously a team placing is out of the realm of possibility, but Loupee said the guys have already accomplished their goals by just being there to compete.

“A realistic goal for us is that we score in a couple of places. At the end of the day when they hand out the placing sheet we want Marshalltown to be there,” Loupee said. “If you don’t score anything then you aren’t on the list, so we want to score in a couple of events, but at this point anything we do is icing on the cake. We knew going in that it was a fast year, and we qualified in all the events that are really fast.”

Downey is the only swimmer going in the “fast heat” of his event, as he is in the second heat of the 100 free while Beals is in the first and the 200 free relay and 400 free relay are in the second and first heats respectively.

With the hard taper last week, Loupee said the guys won’t quite cut as much as they did last Saturday, but they have their eyes set on a couple of school records and there is a way for them to achieve that goal.

“The boys are excited, there are a couple of things they have been looking at. The 200 free relay is close to a school record in that,” Loupee said. “They have to drop about another second, and that’s a lot for a 200 free relay, but we will trim up the exchanges a little more and we’ve been working on fine-tuning our turns and our breakouts and every time I think these kids aren’t going to do something they turn around and do it, so I’m not going to say it can’t be done.”

The Marshalltown boys try for that goal in the 2018 IHSAA State Swimming Meet at the University of Iowa Aquatic Center, starting at noon on Saturday.