Prep Sports

Iowa City West has 'no fear' as it aims for boys' state swimming championship

Top-ranked Trojans are favorites Saturday in Iowa City

Iowa City West's Izaak Hajek competes in the 100 yard butterfly during an IHSAA District Swim Meet at the Linn-Mar Commu
Iowa City West’s Izaak Hajek competes in the 100 yard butterfly during an IHSAA District Swim Meet at the Linn-Mar Community School District Aquatic Center in Marion on Saturday, February 8, 2020. Hajek placed second with a time of 50.54. (Cliff Jette/Freelance for The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The range of emotions went from the highest high to the lowest low, then back again.

The Iowa City West boys’ swim team saw its state title hopes somewhat dashed then fully restored after the Trojans’ winning 400-yard freestyle team was disqualified then reinstated following last Saturday’s district meet at the Linn-Mar Aquatic Center.

That experience, according to West Coach Byron Butler, has his team in a perfect frame of mind entering Saturday’s state meet.

“We experienced what losing the state title, and really the opportunity to try, would already feel like,” Butler said of the emotional roller coaster. “Now we have no fear going into the (state) meet.”

West, ranked No. 1 all season, is favored to win the school’s first title since winning back-to-back crowns in 2014 and ’15. Saturday’s meet begins at 12:10 p.m. at the University of Iowa Campus Recreation & Wellness Center Pool with the Parade of Teams and IHSSCA Hall of Fame Awards followed by the first event.

West will have 26 entries. If the Trojans match their seed positions based on district results, they would finish with 271 points, well ahead of Bettendorf (213), Ankeny (204) and Waukee (201).

Butler was quick to warn how things can change during the course of a meet.

“Sure we are ahead on paper, but there is so much mobility in terms of score at (state),” he said. “Each of those teams will move up and add to their point total.

“We will try to do the same. Ankeny and Waukee, in particular, have a lot of potential to improve on seeding.”

West is among the top three seeds in eight of the 11 events. Senior James Pinter is the top qualifier in the 100-yard backstroke and is second in the 200 freestyle. Freshman Diggory Dillingham is second in the 50 free and senior Izaak Hajek is third in the 100 butterfly.

West is seeded first in the 200 medley relay and is second in the 200 and 400 free relays.

With the intense training complete, Butler said West’s focus this week is on health and focus.

“I think keeping kids healthy at this time of year is always a challenge,” he said. “Getting the kids’ nervous systems ready for a number of intense efforts again is difficult.”

Butler was an assistant coach for West’s two titles. He said winning the school’s third would be different as the rules changed after 2015 to score 16 instead of 12 swimmers at state.

“It would mean everything to this team (to win a title),” he said. “This year is entirely different with almost everyone with the potential to directly contribute to the ultimate goal. It’s the closest team we have ever had.”

Individually, Iowa City High’s Forrest Frazier will look to close his career with two more individual titles. A three-time state champ, the University of California recruit is the top seed by wide margins in the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke.

“He is primed to do something really special at state,” said City High Coach Zane Hugo.

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Linn-Mar, a sixth-place state finisher last year, could improve on that finish this year. Senior Nick Cavanah is the top seed in the 100 butterfly and is second in the 100 back, just ahead of sophomore teammate Aiden Carstensen. Sophomore Cooper Callahan is No. 2 in the 500 free and No. 3 in the 200 free. The Lions are seeded third in the 200 and 400 free relays.

“These guys have just continued to improve as the year has gone along,” said Linn-Mar Coach Tom Belin. “We had our best performances at state last year and I think we are on the same track this year.”

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