Prep Sports

Cedar Rapids metro boys' swimming teams navigating pandemic for successful season

No MVC Super Meet this year, but swimmers still get another chance to compete

Linn-Mar's Aiden Carstensen swims in the 200-yard individual medley at the boys' state swimming meet at the University o
Linn-Mar's Aiden Carstensen swims in the 200-yard individual medley at the boys' state swimming meet at the University of Iowa Campus and Recreation Center in Iowa City on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Navigating through the boys’ swimming season has been like working through “a great big maze”.

That assessment from Linn-Mar head coach Tom Belin pretty much sums up the plight of both coaches and swimmers as a season altered almost daily due to the coronavirus enters its final three weeks.

One piece of that maze was navigated Saturday as the Lions, Cedar Rapids Jefferson and Cedar Rapids Washington got together for a triangular meet at the venerable Hal Krizian-Jim Voss pool on the Washington campus.

There were no team scores kept. On the day the Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet is traditionally held, the goals were understandably different.

“My goals today were to go out and make my team happy,” said Washington junior Grady Wheeler, who won the 50-yard freestyle and took second in the 100 free. “It is different with (COVID-19) but I feel like we’ve worked around that really well.

“At the end of each race, what you got was what you got,” he continued. “All the little things matter when you are swimming, especially in this pool. It’s not the fastest pool, but it has a lot of tradition and a lot of history has been made in this pool.”

Linn-Mar and the host Warriors dominated the meet. Belin’s Lions won seven events, with the other four going to Washington. Juniors Cooper Callahan and Aiden Carstensen were double individual winners. Callahan took the 200 and 500 freestyle events while Carstensen captured top honors in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke.

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“We just haven’t had many opportunities for meets,” Carstensen said. “(Coach Belin) has just been keeping me in my events, the 100 fly and the 100 back, to just swim them enough so I am ready (for districts and state).”

For Carstensen, the season has been “hectic.”

“We’ve been able to swim now, but we weren’t able to swim over break,” he said. “Now, we’ve just started peaking, which is the beginning of our tapering.”

Carstensen said the Lions have worked hard on staying safe in an effort to get to the end of the season.

“We’ve been doing a really good job of keeping everybody apart,” he said. “We have the borders between the lanes. So far, we are all good.”

Other individual event winners included Linn-Mar’s Ian Steffen (100 freestyle) along with Washington’s Conner Cruise (200 IM) and Brian Foerster (100 breaststroke).

Even with all the uncertainty, Belin says he likes where his team stands at this point.

“This is exactly where I want us to be,” he said. “We are swimming hard, we are swimming fast and we are practicing well. I think they are feeling good. I’m looking forward to districts and state.”

Washington has always been a strong team in district meets. Wheeler believes that will continue this year.

“We’re going to be ready,” he said. “We’re going to be practicing hard for districts in two weeks and we’re going to show up and compete, that’s for sure.”

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200-yard medley relay: 1. CR Washington (Mats McGrath, Brian Forester, Grady Wheeler, Trevor Erb) 1:40.34, 2. CR Jefferson (Carter Prull, Dennis Landen, Tate Kuennen, Jorge Borland) 1:55.28 Note: Linn-Mar was disqualified.

200 freestyle: 1. Cooper Callahan (LM) 1:45.22, 2. Mats McGrath (CRW) 1:47.23, 3. Anthony Lee (CRJ) 1:55.86.

200 individual medley: 1. Conner Cruise (CRW) 2:06.62, 2. Ian Lucas (CRW) 2:09.57, 3. Ryan Horsey (LM) 2:13.33.

50 freestyle: 1. Grady Wheeler (CRW) 22.74, 2. Greg Gerst (LM) 23.39, 3. Trevor Erb (CRW) 23.52.

100 butterfly: 1. Aiden Carstensen (LM) 52.12, 2. Mats McGrath (CRW) 52.27, 3. Tate Kuennen (CRJ) 57.22.

100 freestyle: 1. Ian Steffen (LM) 49.07 2. Grady Wheeler (CRW) 50.68, 3. Ian Lucas (CRW) 51.19.

500 freestyle: 1. Cooper Callahan (LM) 4:49.02, 2, Brian Foerster (CRW) 5:07.91, 3. Conner Cruise (CRW) 5:16.25.

200 free relay: 1. Linn-Mar (Aiden Carstensen, Ian Steffen, Greg Gerst, Cooper Callahan) 1:29.49, 2. CR Washington (Grady Wheeler, Trevor Erb, Ian Lucas, Conner Cruise) 1:32.38, 3. CR Jefferson (Tate Kuennen, Carter Prull, Parker Gammill, Anthony Lee) 1:37.50.

100 backstroke: 1. Aiden Carstensen (LM) 53.40, 2. Ian Steffen (LM) 53.95, 3. Ryan McCaffrey (CRW) 57.04.

100 breaststroke: 1. Brian Foerster (CRW) 1:02.57, 2. Blake Behrens (LM) 1:06.68, 3. Gavin Beech (LM) 1:07.40.

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400 free relay: 1. Linn-Mar (Cooper Callahan, Ian Steffen, Ryan Horsey, Luke Richard) 3:20.16, 2. CR Washington (Mats McGrath, Ryan McCaffrey, Ian Lucas, Conner Cruise) 3:21.18, 3. CR Jefferson (Tate Kuennen, Sheppard West, Michael Guckenberger, Anthony Lee) 3:39.93.

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