Swimmers, by nature, are resilient.
The laps of practice for them seem endless, yet they have the amazing ability to recover quickly, moving from one event to the next as if they have rested for days, not minutes.
This season. however. has tested that resiliency for high school boys’ swimmers in Iowa. Workouts have changed, traditions have been altered, if not put on hold all together, because of COVID-19.
One slice of normalcy does remain. Championship week begins at noon Saturday (weather permitting) with district meets being held at six sites to fill out the field for the state meet on Feb. 13 at the Linn-Mar Aquatic Center.
Gazette area schools have been placed in three of the six districts. Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Cedar Rapids Washington, Iowa City High and Williamsburg will swim at Clinton. Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Decorah, Linn-Mar and Vinton-Shellsburg were assigned to the Dubuque Hempstead district while Iowa City West will be at Davenport Central.
Iowa City West
West enters the postseason at the top team in the state power rankings. Coach Byron Butler’s defending state champions are a favorite to win the team title in a district with a field of unfamiliar opponents.
“There are positives and negatives to the change, but we will focus on the positives,” Butler said. “Seeing and competing against unfamiliar athletes and teams will help us to focus on ourselves and not on performances during the regular season. The (district) meet has always been about racing and finishing with a chance to qualify.”
Butler admits it has been a year of adapting to the environment.
“We have altered our training pretty significantly compared to years past, I am happy with the efforts I see every day in the weight room and pool,” he said. “The boys have given themselves a chance to reach their goals despite a long time out of the pool at the start of the season.”
Sprinters Kirk Brotherton and Luke Nichols, along with butterflier Holden Carter, who has the state’s best time to date in the 100-yard butterfly (50.77), lead the way for the Trojans.
Linn-Mar is ranked seventh and is among the favorites to win its district at Hempstead. The Lions are led by versatile juniors Aiden Carstensen and Cooper Callahan and sophomore Ian Steffen.
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For the first time in many years, the Lions are not at home for a district meet. With the state meet moving to Linn-Mar from the University of Iowa due to COVID-19 restrictions, Coach Tom Belin’s team will be hitting the road.
“The most important thing is that we get to swim,” Belin said. “Fortunately, we get to go to a fantastic facility in Dubuque. It has many of the same design features that our Linn-Mar pool has. We consider it our home away from home.”
Cedar Rapids Washington
Washington is just behind Linn-Mar in the power rankings at No. 8. The Warrior program under Chris Cruise, and before him Jim Voss and Hal Krizan, has done some of its best swimming at districts.
This year, the Warriors will be in Clinton and will battle with No. 4 Pleasant Valley for the team title.
“Our guys have some lofty goals set for themselves and it will be a lot of fun to watch them achieve those goals,” Cruise said. “We are excited to go and swim at Clinton, which is also one of the fastest pools in the state.
“That is one of the benefits of having so many nice, new facilities around the state. The state now has several options and you don’t find one or two districts being at a disadvantage in terms of qualifying because they are swimming in a slower pool.”
Senior Mats McGrath and junior Grady Wheeler have been the top performers so far this season for the Warriors.