IOWA CITY — James Pinter’s talents in a swimming pool have never been questioned.
The Iowa City West senior has been a force since joining the Trojans last season when his family moved into the district from La Crosse, Wis. He has been a leader in the pool from day one. But Coach Byron Butler said Pinter’s influence on the team reached a new level this season.
“This year, I totally thrust him into the leadership role,” Butler said. “It was a role he had last year, even as a newcomer to the team.
“This season, he added the vocal piece to that. I don’t even have to talk to the guys before a meet to get them ready to go. He takes care of everything.”
Pinter’s leadership skills will be put to the test Saturday. Top-ranked West is the headliner in the district meet at Linn-Mar, beginning at noon. Burlington, Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Cedar Rapids Washington, Decorah, Iowa City High, Keokuk and Linn-Mar are the other teams in the field.
Vinton-Shellsburg and Williamsburg will compete in a district at Marshalltown. The top 24 performances from the six district meets around the state will qualify for the state meet, Feb. 15 at the University of Iowa Campus Recreation and Wellness Center pool.
Butler had an inkling Pinter would be a great fit for the Trojans well before his first practice.
“I actually met James before he started swimming when he was a lifeguard working for me during the summer,” Butler said. “I remember talking to him and he told me how excited he was to be a part of a team. I knew it was going to work out well.”
Pinter, who will swim collegiately at Army West Point, agreed.
“I give all the credit in the world to Coach Byron and the other team captains like Izaak Hajek for the team culture of accepting people,” he said. “From the beginning, they made me feel involved and feel good about being on the team.”
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As a junior, Pinter placed second in the 100- and 200-yard freestyles at state and was also part of the Trojans’ runner-up 200 medley relay team.
He has built on that success as a senior. Pinter leads the state in the 200 free (1:43.13), is second in the 100 back (51.70) and is a part of all three of West’s state-leading relays. The Trojans have state bests in the 200 medley relay (1:34.75), 200 free relay (1:26.96) and the 400 free relay (3:13.38).
As for where he swims on Saturday and at state, Pinter said it does not matter to him.
“I’m comfortable swimming whatever Coach Byron wants me to swim,” he said. “This is where all of our hard work all season really shows up. We have to lock in now and stay focused.”