MARION — Linn-Mar freshman Aiden Carstensen has modest goals — for now.
“I’d like to break the 200 individual medley record for our school,” he said.
Linn-Mar boys’ swimming coach Tom Belin is thinking bigger.
“I think he’s going to surprise himself,” he said.
Carstensen is focusing on Saturday’s district meet and, if all goes well, next week’s state meet.
“He loves to compete, and I believe the team atmosphere in the high school environment has helped him become a better competitor,” Belin said. “He’s not just competing for himself now, he’s competing for his team.”
Belin cited Carstensen’s understanding of technique as a reason for his success.
“He is an incredibly knowledgeable swimmer,” Belin said. “He understands stroke mechanics better than a lot of coaches that I know.”
That knowledge about swimming has paid off for Carstensen. He ranks in the top 18 in the state for every individual event.
“He is capable of doing every stroke, which is unusual for a swimmer to start with,” Belin said. “To have somebody as young as Aiden to be able to do that is a rare talent.”
Carstensen said mental toughness training with a focus on positive thinking has been the emphasis of recent practices.
“We need to swim our own race and focus on ourselves, not the people around us,” Carstensen said.
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While high school swimming is his focus right now, Carstensen has generally been able to find a balance between school swimming and swimming for his club in Iowa City, the Iowa Flyers.
“Whenever there is not high school practice I go to club practice,” he said. “The coaches have balanced it pretty well, they’ve communicated well with each other.”
Carstensen also has to focus on schoolwork.
“My club is in Iowa City so I would do all my schoolwork on the way to Iowa City and the way back, so it’s pretty well-balanced,” Carstensen said.
Carstensen said he enjoys history, but also math due to its practical application to engineering, a field he hopes to pursue in the future.
Carstensen also sees a future with swimming. He hopes to take it to the collegiate level and see where it goes from there.
But for now, he has his eye on that Linn-Mar record.