The wait is over
Bobcat swimming snaps two-year drought with five qualifiers for state
ANKENY — When the Marshalltown boys swim team hit the pool at the Trail Point Aquatics and Wellness Center Saturday afternoon for the district meet, it did so looking to snap a two-year streak of not qualifying any swimmers for state.
The odds were stacked against the Bobcats, as they faced a tough district featuring the first, third and sixth-ranked teams in the power rankings, but they proved up to the challenge as MHS finished with five total podium finishes and five state-qualifying times.
Junior Ryne Downey got things started for the Bobcats by swimming a career-best 21.76 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle to place fourth, then Downey and sophomore Carson Beals each swam under 49 seconds in the 100 free to place third and fifth respectively.
To close out the qualifications, the 200 freestyle relay team of Beals, Downey, Brad Barkema and Gage Petty swam its fastest race of the season with a 1:29.88 to take fifth and the 400 freestyle relay team of Beals, Downey, Petty and Nash Perisho shaved almost seven seconds off of its fastest time to swim a 3:19.81 to also place fifth.
Marshalltown head coach Mike Loupee said this wasn’t necessarily the best possible meet his Bobcats could have swam, but it was very close to a “perfect” meet.
“We have 36 swims with relays and three individuals, so a perfect meet is to have 36 best times,” Loupee said poolside at the conclusion of districts. “We had 32 out of 36, so that’s not perfect but we will take it all day long. The guys swam great, and of those 32 season bests, 29 of them were lifetime bests.”
Not many of the current MHS swimmers were a part of the last team to qualify athletes for state three years ago, and Loupee said that fact wasn’t lost on his guys.
“Last night, we just stretched out and barely warmed up and did relay exchanges then got out, but one of the conversations that the coaches had with them last night was, our seniors could remember our guys going to the state meet,” Loupee said. “They weren’t part of that, but they remember it, so for two years we haven’t been there and I told the guys ‘if we don’t go to the show this year then our program has no understanding that the season isn’t over for another week.'”
Excitement was palpable the entire meet from the MHS boys, as they were quick to celebrate every time cut and every podium finish. Loupee said he reminded the guys before districts that they were swimming for the legacy of Bobcat swimming and he urged them to remind people what MHS swimming is all about.
“I also mentioned to them that if we don’t have the expectations to go to state then we fall into a mentality of mediocrity, and that has never been what our program is about,” Loupee said. “We as coaches layed that challenge down to them, and they stepped up fantastically and then some today.”
Considering it had been three years since the last time the Bobcats sent anyone to state, Loupee said they would have been happy with just one qualifier, but the fact they have two individuals and two relay teams heading to state is obviously better than just sending an individual.
“It’s more of a team thing now rather than just taking two individuals,” Loupee said. “We have five guys swimming and two alternates, and that feels more like a team to have that number of bodies. We get to do things as a group, and even for the alternates thats an experience they will want to have again.”
While the story of the day is the podium finishers and qualifiers, there were many great performances for the Bobcats at districts. As Loupee said, 29 times were lifetime bests for his team, and he pointed at freshman Ethan Benscoter’s time in the 500 freestyle as one of the best performances of the day.
“Little Ethan Benscoter, he was like the swim of the day,” Loupee said of Benscoter shaving almost 30 seconds off of his seed time. “I told him to stick to that kid on the inside of him and he went out and he did. He responded to his signals at the turns and swam a great race. I am excited for the next four years for kids like that.”
What Loupee said his guys did best in districts was swim above their heat placings. For the 48 slots in the final heats, No. 1 Ames, No. 3 Ankeny and No. 6 Waukee took up 38 of the places, so Loupee said guys like Beals qualifying even in the second-to-last heat of the 100 free was incredible.
“We were in an extremely fast district. When you have the No. 1, the No. 3 and the No. 6 ranked teams in the same district, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for the other teams,” Loupee said. “That just makes me more proud of my guys swimming in the second heat, the third heat and giving themselves a shot to qualify for state.”
Now that the Bobcats are back in the state tournament next Saturday, which has moved out of Marshalltown and to the University of Iowa campus, Loupee said he wants his guys to celebrate this accomplishment but not lose sight of what’s to come.
“We need to savor tonight and focus on next week, but then we can look at our possibilities for next season,” Loupee said. “I am hoping we are on the cusp of an upswing for Marshalltown boys swimming.”
Team Standings — 1. Ankeny 413, 2. Ames 395, 3. Waukee 352.5, 4. Des Moines Roosevelt 189, 5. Newton/Colfax-Mingo/Pella 187, 6. Des Moines Lincoln 159, 7. Marshalltown 155.5, 8. Waterloo 97.
(Champion plus MHS placewinners)
200 MEDLEY RELAY — 1. Ames (Johnson, Lillibridge, Mahrous, Matthews) 1:35.97, 8. MHS (Petty, Gunderson, Summers, Barkema) 1:46.85.
200 FREESTYLE — 1. Trent Frandson, Ankeny, 1:43.53; 10. Nash Perisho, MHS, 1:55.66.
200 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY — 1. Cameron Linder, Waukee, 1:53.74; 10. Carson Beals, MHS, 2:10.02.
50 FREESTYLE — 1. Caleb Gaylor, NCMP, 21.00; 4. Ryne Downey, MHS, 21.76.
100 BUTTERFLY — 1. Dalton Lillibridge, Ames, 52.08; 13. Caleb Summers, MHS, 58.54; 15. Nash Perisho, MHS, 1:01.17.
100 FREESTYLE — 1. James Bentley, Ames, 47.05; 3. Ryne Downey, MHS, 48.53; 5. Carson Beals, MHS, 48.69.
500 FREESTYLE — 1. Trent Frandson, Ankeny, 4:38.75; 14. Chris Streets, MHS, 5:21.43; 16. Tyler Downey, MHS, 5:32.72.
200 FREESTYLE RELAY — 1. Ankeny (Martin, Vaske, Neils, Frandson) 1:25.97, 5. MHS (Beals, Barkema, Petty, Downey) 1:29.88.
100 BACKSTROKE — 1. Cameron Briggs, Waukee, 52.03; 11. Gage Petty, MHS, 56.88; 14. Caleb Summers, MHS, 1:00.44.
100 BREASTSTROKE — 1. Dalton Lillibridge, Ames, 57.64.
400 FREESTYLE RELAY — 1. Ankeny (Frandson, Vaske, Westercamp, Martin) 3:11.12, 5. MHS (Beals, Perisho, Petty, Downey) 3:19.81.