MARION — Aiden Carstensen came across as a humble champion.
That was on the exterior. The swimmer on the inside is another story.
“He is a competitor,” said Linn-Mar Coach Tom Belin after Carstensen captured a state title in the 100-yard backstroke on Saturday afternoon at the Linn-Mar Aquatic Center. “He doesn’t like getting beat. When he gets it in him, there is nobody faster and nobody smarter on how to swim a race.”
Carstensen was the lone individual state champion among Gazette-area competitors on Saturday. The junior was seeded second coming in and controlled the race from start to finish to win in 49.83 seconds.
Waukee used superior depth to win the team title with 268.5 points. Ankeny was second (238.5) while defending champion Iowa City West, which took home gold in the 200-medley relay, finished third with 208.5. Linn-Mar was fifth with 155 points.
In winning his first state title, Carstensen said a key was his focus on the entire field.
“I like to know where everybody is at,” he said. “I feel like that gives me focus and keeps my mind on the race and lets me see how I am doing and if I have to pick it up. On the last 25 I saw I was ahead and still had a lot of energy so I just kicked it into gear.”
Another Linn-Mar junior, Cooper Callahan, was second in the 200 freestyle (1:39.52) and third in the 500 (4:33.49).
“My races went better than I thought they would,” Callahan said. “I just focused on swimming my own races and it worked out well for me. I just kept myself in my own lane and didn’t worry what anybody else was doing.”
The fifth-place team finish was the best in Belin’s coaching tenure.
“This was just an incredible meet for us,” he said. “I’m thrilled getting fifth place in the state. We swam so well.
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“We’re a back-end team. You saw the points. We piled them on at the end and we excelled at that so well today.”
West started out the meet by winning the 200 medley by nearly two seconds. Jordan Christensen also added a second-place finish in the 100 breaststroke.
“The goal this season was to finish in the top three,” West Coach Byron Butler said. “Despite losing as many guys as we did from last year’s state championship team, we came in and swam well. We’re really, really happy on how so many guys improved on their seeds.
Butler added that he is looking forward to the future as most swimmers who scored on Saturday return next season.
“I look at what we have coming back on the relays and we should be really explosive,” he said. “Hopefully we can get back to some sort of normal and have a season from start to finish.”
Iowa City High finished seventh, led by senior Isaac Weigel, who had runner-up finishes in both the 200 individual medley and 100 freestyle.
“Considering the times and the limited amount of time I got to practice this season, I was real happy with my time drops,” he said. “I’m just super satisfied. It was just a great meet.”