The boys’ swimming season in Iowa usually is a three-month sprint.
A normal season begins in late November and culminates with the state meet the second week of February. Nothing about the 2020-21 prep season has been normal.
As was the case during the girls’ fall season, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions for all area teams, making the usual sprint to the finish even more fast-paced.
The Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet traditionally marks the beginning of the championship season. That meet was originally scheduled for Saturday, but has been replaced with three smaller meets at Dubuque Hempstead, Iowa City West and Cedar Rapids Washington to keep numbers down at any one facility.
Cedar Rapids Jefferson and Linn-Mar will swim at Cedar Rapids Washington while Cedar Rapids Kennedy will join Iowa City High and West at the Coralville Rec Center. Cedar Falls, Waterloo and Dubuque Senior will be in a four-team meet at Hempstead.
Washington Coach Chris Cruise compared Saturday’s schedule to the postseason.
“For us, this won’t really be any different than the district meet is,” he said. “You are competing against nine other teams in the MVC, it is just that they aren’t all in the same pool, so it is a lot like districts.
“Not everyone in the state is competing in the same pool as you are at districts so you have to take care of your own business and be the best you can be on that day in that environment and the rest takes care of itself.
“We will have great swimmers from Linn-Mar and C.R. Jefferson pushing us so it will be a lot of fun.”
Linn-Mar Coach Tom Belin said his team is just grateful for the chance to compete.
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“We’ll take any opportunity to get in the water,” he said. “The conference meet won’t have the same feel and excitement, but we have boys competing for spots on our district team. There will still be great competition to push them.”
For the first time since the year after it opened, the Linn-Mar Aquatic Center wasn’t selected to host a district meet. It was selected, however, to host the state meet after it had to be moved from the University of Iowa due to COVID-19 concerns.
“The trade-off for districts is that Linn-Mar gets to host the state meet,” Cruise said. “That will be a lot of fun.”
Gazette area schools have been placed in three of the six districts. Jefferson, Washington, City High and Williamsburg will swim at Clinton. Kennedy, Decorah, Linn-Mar and Vinton-Shellsburg were assigned to Hempstead while Iowa City West will be at Davenport Central.
District meets are scheduled for Feb. 6 with the state meet at Linn-Mar set for Feb. 13.
Defending state champion Iowa City West is ranked No. 3 in the state power rankings behind Waukee and Ankeny as of Tuesday morning. Linn-Mar is No. 6 while Washington is No. 9.
Among individuals, Iowa City West’s Kirk Brotherton has the No. 2 time in the 50-yard freestyle (21.27). Linn-Mar’s Aiden Carstensen is second in the 100 butterfly (51.35). Another Lion, Cooper Callahan is third in the 200 freestyle (1:43.89) while Iowa City High’s Isaac Weigel is third in the 200 individual medley (1:57.17).
Iowa City West also has the second-best time in both the 200 free and medley relays.