MARION — It has been a year of format changes for girls’ swimming in Iowa.
For the first time, swimmers in individual events have been able to post state qualifying times during the regular season, meaning they have a guaranteed spot in the state meet as long as they swim and complete the event at the regional meet.
Those state standards have been reached by several swimmers, many in multiple events. However, the six regional meets scheduled for this week still will determine a majority of the spots for next week’s state meet at Marshalltown. There were be 32 state qualifiers in each event, up from 24 in past years.
“I don’t believe (the regional meets) will be diminished by some swimmers (making the state standard) before the meet,” said Iowa City West Coach Byron Butler. “The meet will still be a measure of the top athletes and their preparedness for state.”
West is the heavy favorite to win the championship in the 10-team regional at the Linn-Mar Aquatic Center. The diving competition is set for Thursday at 5 p.m. with the swimming events scheduled for Saturday at noon. Other teams in the field include Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Cedar Rapids Washington, Decorah, Iowa City High, Keokuk, Linn-Mar, Tipton and Waterloo. Gazette-area teams Vinton-Shellsburg/Union and Williamsburg will compete in the Grinnell regional.
Butler is blessed with two of the state’s best swimmers in sophomore Aurora Roghair and freshman Scarlet Martin. Both have met state qualifying standards in five individual events. Each swimmer is limited to four total events, including relays, in any single meet so Butler has some options with his standout swimmers.
“I don’t think we are going to do anything differently,” Butler said. “We are still going in there with the expectation that you are starting to rest a bit and you are going to have some really fast swims. We still want to try and get as many people to state as possible.”
Roghair agrees with her coach on the regional approach.
“I think maybe we will be able to train a little harder a little longer,” she said. “I still want to do my best at regionals to secure my spot and get a good seed for the preliminaries at state.”
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Only five other athletes in the Linn-Mar regional already have met state qualifying standards. West junior Lily Ernst has met the standard in the 100-yard butterfly. The junior likely will be paired with Roghair and Martin in relay events for West along with freshmen Ella Hochstetler and Olivia Taeger.
Others with state qualifying times are Iowa City High juniors Olivia Masterson (200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke) and Carly Weigel (100 backstroke), Washington senior Jill Hughes (500 freestyle) and Decorah junior Emma Bachelder (100 breaststroke). Vinton-Shellsburg/Union senior Arabella Shepard has qualified in three events.
First-year Linn-Mar coach Bobby Kelley believes the race to make state will be enhanced this year with the new format. All regional champions, regardless of time, still qualify for state. If there are more than 32 times that beat the standard in any one individual event, all will qualify and an extra preliminary heat will be added.
“For those who were pushing getting in the 24th position using last year’s format, allowing up to 32 entrants opens up the meet somewhat,” he said. “It takes the pressure off just a bit. These students might not fully rest for the meet. It also opens the door for more students to have the opportunity to step up and make the meet.”