116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — Hayley Kimmel has been one of Iowa's best high school swimmers over the past four years.
One thing, however, is missing — a state title.
The Linn-Mar senior, who has committed to swim at the University of Iowa, came close as a freshman with two runner-up finishes in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 breaststroke. She had a third as a sophomore in the 100 breast and another runner-up effort last year in the 200 IM.
Kimmel has one final chance to add that elusive state title this weekend. The meet state begins on Friday at the Marshalltown YMCA with swimming preliminaries at 11 a.m. and the diving competition at 5 p.m. Swimming finals will be held at noon on Saturday.
“Hayley is in top form this season,” said Linn-Mar Coach Charlie Hugo. “She has done everything she needs to do to be a top athlete in the state and we will know (Saturday) if she can finally stand on top of the podium at the state meet.”
She enters the meet with the top qualifying time in 100-yard freestyle (51.24 seconds) and second in the 100 backstroke, just behind Davenport Central's Hannah Cousins. Two other area swimmers — Iowa City West senior Jade Roghair (500 freestyle, 5:04.99) and Iowa City High sophomore Grace Hoeper (50 freestyle, 23.72) — also have top qualifying times in their events.
Ironically, Kimmel will be making her first state appearances in her two individual events, forgoing the IM and breaststroke for the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke.
“The past three years I have done the 200 IM and 100 breast at the state meet,” she said. “I’ve always been looked at as an IM’er and a breaststroker but I don’t think anyone really realizes that my talent has progressed in my freestyle and backstroke.
“I am fortunate enough to have talent in all four strokes so this season I wanted to focus on those events and see what I can do.”
About midway through the season, Hugo and his coaching staff sat down with Kimmel and discussed what she wanted out of her senior season.
“Hayley told us that she wanted to have fun and enjoy her time with the team,” he said. “Over the next week we looked at times from around the state and where she could compete and potentially win a state title.
“We agreed on the 100 backstroke but it took a little longer to convince her on the 100 free. After deciding on these events the focus and drive in practice was incredible.”
The focus Hugo cited represents a transformation of sorts for Kimmel over her four years.
“I think the biggest difference between me as a freshman compared to me as a senior is confidence and determination,” she said. “Freshman me was very negative, always comparing myself to other girls and never giving myself a chance to be happy or to be proud of myself.
“Senior me is a lot different. I am more positive toward my races and I am ready for the competition and not scared of it.”
Winning a state title would be one of “the most important and exciting” moments of Kimmel's career. However, after enduring some struggles and doubts during the middle of her prep career, she has put the upcoming state meet in perspective.
“There are not enough words to describe how incredibly thankful I am that no one gave up on me,” she said. “No matter the outcome this weekend, the coaches that have been there for me in the last 10 years deserve more credit than I could ever give them.
“They will never understand how much they actually mean to me and how much credit they deserve for coaching me all these years. If I were to win an event at state this weekend, that gold medal would represent all the hard work they have done for me.”
Where: Marshalltown YMCA/YWCA
Schedule: Friday: 11 a.m. — Swimming preliminaries; 5 p.m. — Diving finals. Saturday: Noon — Swimming finals
Tickets: Tickets are available for sale at Bound. Tickets are $10 plus processing fees for each session.
Parking: Parking is $10. Tickets can be purchased in advance on the Bound website. There are designated areas at the Marshalltown YMCA/YWCA.
Livestream: The meet will be broadcast live by the IGHSAU Digital Network.