116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Not many high school sophomores are considered team leaders.
Iowa City High swimmer Grace Hoeper has not only been given that role by her coaches, she has embraced it.
City High is a young team, with only six seniors on its roster of 33.
“After having a year under her belt she is more confident to lead her team,” said City High Coach Mandi Kowal. “She's always been a great leader by her actions, being on time, coming to practice, etc. Now she provides feedback to others and organizes the group at practice when needed.
“She wants to be a better leader and we are moving in the right direction.”
That upward movement for Hoeper also is evident in her times. Hoeper, who is a student at Solon but swims for City High, made her mark at last year's state meet, finishing fifth in the 100 freestyle (52.82) and sixth in the 50 free (24.06).
Hoeper put other swimmers around the state on notice last Saturday that she is a state-title contender.
Her winning time of 57.61 in the 100 butterfly at the Little Hawk Invitational pushed her to the top of the state charts as of Tuesday. Hoeper also is ranked second in the state in the 50 freestyle (24.16) and fourth in the 200 free (1:55.93).
Saturday's meet included three of the top five teams from last year's state meet, including defending champion Waukee and third-place finisher Iowa City West.
Kowal said that level of competition brings out the best in Hoeper.
“Grace thrives under those environments,” said the Little Hawks coach. "She loves to race. She's put in so much time and is always willing to get after it. What I love about Grace is that when she arrives at the pool, she can get into a competitive headspace right away.“
As a team, City High is not among the state's elite. Kowal said the foundation is being set for future success.
“The team is still young but moving forward,” she said. “They love to learn and see things in a different perspective. We will continue working on championship habits and it'll be fun to see where this group is, Grace included, when they are seniors.”
Iowa City West starts strong
Coach Byron Butler's Iowa City West team also had strong performances in Saturday's meet, finishing second as a team behind Waukee.
Jade Roghair was a double winner, taking the 200 and 500 freestyle titles. She leads the state in both events. Teammate Kolby Reese ranks fifth in both events.
West, ranked No. 3 in the latest power rankings behind Waukee and West Des Moines Dowling, is 5-0 in duals after downing Linn-Mar on Tuesday night.
Speaking of the Lions, senior Hayley Kimmel, a University of Iowa commit, is ranked second in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.63) and third in the 100 backstroke (58.92).
Big meet Saturday in Cedar Rapids
Cedar Rapids Kennedy is hosting a 10-team meet Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m. The host Cougars will be joined in the field by MVC rivals Linn-Mar, Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Iowa City High and Iowa City West along with Decorah, Des Moines Roosevelt, Johnston, Pleasant Valley and Southeat Polk.
One of the state's premier swimmers, Johnston senior Olivia Swalley, is scheduled to compete. She leads the state in three events (50 free, 100 breaststroke and 200 IM) and ranks among the top five in three others (200 free, second; 100 free, third; and 100 back, fourth).