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Bobcat girls’ swim team navigating strange season

T-R FILE PHOTO - Marshalltown High School then-junior Klaudia Hernandez competes in the 100-yard breaststroke at the Bobcats’ regional swimming meet Nov. 2, 2019, at Southeast Polk High School in Pleasant Hill.

The Marshalltown girls’ swimming and diving team was supposed to have been facing Des Moines North on Tuesday night. When the Polar Bears were caught up in the Des Moines Public School District’s battle with the Iowa Department of Education over their ability to play high school sports while classes were fully online, the Bobcats were left without a meet.

So, practice took place instead, ahead of a home meet against Cedar Rapids Washington tonight — a meet that was scheduled to be held in Cedar Rapids before the Aug. 10 derecho damaged Washington’s high school. The meet starts at 5:30 p.m. at MHS.

Bobcat head coach Angie Nelson said it’s a lot for the team to deal with, but that they’ve been taking it in stride.

“What a grateful attitude that these girls have that every day is a new day, and every day is a new look,” Nelson said. “I’m really proud of how they’re handling all of these situations that are getting thrown at them, and how they’re adjusting.”

The Bobcats have swam in two meets this season, against Des Moines schools East and Lincoln. The Bobcats were beaten soundly by the Railsplitters, 122-64, in their first meet but won against the Scarlets 95-75. Without a lot of depth on the roster, she said it is difficult to see the team winning a majority of their meets and invitationals given the quality of competition in the CIML. However, she had hopes of getting to state with some of the talent in each event — particularly the team’s leading returner, Klaudia Hernandez. Hernandez is a senior who Nelson has high hopes for.

“She’s a powerful swimmer,” Nelson said. “You’ll see us move her around quite a bit until we see where she’ll excel this year.”

Fellow senior Diana Espinoza is valuable to the team well, Nelson said, both as a leader and in the butterfly. Of the juniors, returner Taylor Jones is experienced and swam sprint freestyles last year. Nelson praised her athleticism and work ethic.

Marshalltown also has out-of-town help from several West Marshall students and one GMG student, who travel to practice and compete for the Bobcats since their schools don’t have a team.

The unsure nature of this season has given the Bobcats plenty of urgency, with Nelson saying the team practices as if this is the last practice they’ll have.

It has given Nelson an appreciation for the team being able to have the season at all, given the circumstances.

“It’s hard because everything just seems so willy-nilly up in the air,” Nelson said. “They’re just a polished group of young ladies that are so excited to be here. That makes us so excited to be here and coach them because they’re trying so hard.”

Don’t forget about the Bobcats’ divers, either. The group has been a source of praise for Nelson, who singled out returning senior and state qualifier Hannah Taylor as one to watch. The diving group wasn’t able to compete against East due to the lack of a diving board in those facilities, but Nelson said she believes there’s a mix of experience and young athletes who she thinks will make a serious impact on the team’s performances.

For now, though, with a season full of chops and changes, the Bobcats are keeping a focus on each day as it comes.

“We’re gonna make the most of what we can,” Nelson said. “These girls are glad to be competing. They’re going to start shining.”

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