MARION — For three weeks, all they could do was wait.
The Iowa City West girls’ swim team entered the 2020 season with much anticipation. The Trojans finished fourth at the 2019 state meet and returned a pair of two-event state champs in Aurora Roghair and Scarlet Martin.
Those two, along with a host of other solid swimmers, got off to a great start with impressive dual wins over Dubuque Hempstead and Waterloo.
Then came the suspension of the season based on the Iowa City Community School District’s decision to go with a complete online learning plan to start the school year because of COVID-19. That meant no extracurricular competition and no practices throughout the district.
“We were unable to practice as a team for three weeks,” said Coach Byron Butler. “The disruption was certainly difficult, but on top of that, we didn’t have our home pool until (Oct. 19).”
Despite the obstacles, West regrouped and built an impressive, if not limited resume. The Trojans won each of their six dual meets and took top honors at Kennedy’s Cougar Invitational.
With a power ranking second only to perennial power Ames, West is ready for the postseason. Butler’s crew will be heavily favored in Saturday’s eight-team regional meet at the Linn-Mar Aquatic Center. Joining West in the field will be Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Cedar Rapids Washington, Iowa City High, Keokuk, Tipton and Williamsburg, along with the host school.
No spectators are being allowed to attend any of the regional meets. Saturday’s Linn-Mar regional will be televised on KCRG 9.2.
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Cedar Rapids Kennedy, ranked seventh, is one of eight teams at the Dubuque Hempstead regional. Other Gazette-area schools in that regional include Decorah and Vinton-Shellsburg.
All regional meets begin at noon. The regional diving events will be held on Thursday night.
Butler admitted overall season plans had to change because of the break.
“We had to change the approach, the expectations and our mentalities,” he said. “Measuring progress, building relationships, fine-tuning strokes, and really just focusing on the coaching part of the job has been tough with the distractions. Our girls are smart, resilient and adaptable.
“We have just tried to make the best of every situation.”
It helps to have leaders like Roghair and Martin. Those two, along with a few others, more or less became coaches for three weeks.
“(Those two), along with Jenny Geng, Nikki Pinter, Ella Hochstetler, and Olivia Taeger communicated with me during the three weeks,” Butler said. “They led practice during the middle week of the hiatus and kept the team focused. The girls got together for five practices and I was able to send them some workouts.
“Once the season began again, everyone was just happy to be back together and came in very focused.”
A number of West swimmers already have posted state-qualifying times. However, whatever individual events a swimmer competes in at regionals are the ones they must compete in at state.
Roghair and Martin have state best-times in three individual events and are No. 2 in two others. Roghair, a senior and a Stanford commit, took the state title in the 200 and 500-yard freestyles. Martin, a junior who recently committed to swim collegiately at Florida, won the 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley at state.
So of course they are going to swim those events at regionals, right?
“I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Butler said.
West has other potential scorers in diver Sam Klein, along with Hochstetler, Geng, Taeger, Makala Hajek, Kolby Reese and Carlee Wilkins, which gives Butler several options.
“We’re blessed to have a deep team,” Butler said.