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MHS swimming optimistic about districts

T-R FILE PHOTO - Marshalltown’s Marcus Barker competes in the 200-yard individual medley during the Bobcats’ home triangular against Southeast Polk and Mason City on Jan. 18 at the MHS pool. Barker won the event in a time of 2 minutes, 4.55 seconds.

The 2020-21 Iowa high school boys’ swim season on its own is something Marshalltown head coach Mike Loupee described as a “minor miracle” for even taking place. So naturally, he’s excited to reach the point where his Bobcats are on the cusp of a final chance to qualify for state.

“This fall, I would have given us very, very small odds to have a swim season,” Loupee said. “We’ve had so many great things happen for the kids this year and the fact that we just got to swim. I’m very happy for the guys who have gotten to swim, especially our seniors.”

The preparation process for Saturday’s district meet held at Summit Middle School in Johnston has been relatively smooth, Loupee said, but for a brief scare with an unnamed player contracting the 24-hour flu on Monday. The player was at practice again Tuesday, but it just goes to show the heightened sense of alert around the program as any COVID-19 worries would mean a likely end to the Bobcats’ season.

Right now, though, Marshalltown is on course to reach the final hurdles relatively unscathed.

The process of tapering — or, an educated shot in the dark, as Loupee called it — has been ongoing since last week, and the Bobcats are feeling good about the work they’ve done so far, Loupee said. The rest that tapering provides is something Marshalltown hasn’t had much of this season, with the scrunched up schedule leading to the Bobcats often swimming tired. Still,

the Bobcats have often surpassed Loupee’s initial expectations this season despite the lack of rest, which has given the team hope that rest and tapering will help them surpass their best times of the season to this point.

“We’ve spent 13 weeks getting stronger and swimming tired,” Loupee said. “Now’s the time to enjoy the rest and feeling good, and hopefully we’ve got some pop on Saturday. This is the exciting part of the year, generally. The excitement just to see how all our work transitions into our taper and (I’m) generally excited for the kids.”

Loupee said he is fairly confident in the team’s relays (200 medley relay, 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle) and has “guarded optimism” for individual events.He added that the group has been working on swimming in short bursts and relay exchanges ahead of the events.

Team leaders such as Aaron Seberger and Marcus Barker will have high expectations in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle, respectively, among other events. Other races to look out for will be junior Stephen Blom in the 500 freestyle and senior Ethan Benscoter, who Loupee said at the beginning of the season was the team’s utility swimmer and was adept in every stroke. An aspect that has kind of thrown off the team’s cutoff predictions for reaching state is the change from 24 qualifiers per event to 32.

But as much as the tapering can help on the physical side of things, Loupee said this week has been just as much about the mental aspect of competition.

The Bobcats had to do a lot of work and be very careful to get to this point in the season. Now, it’s time to make the hard work pay off and reach the biggest stage in all of Iowa high school swimming.

Saturday’s meet begins at noon.

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