The location may be new, but the favorite certainly is not.
The Dubuque Community School District Aquatic Center, which opened earlier this month, will host its first Mississippi Valley Conference boys’ swimming meet on Saturday where 2019 champion Iowa City West is a heavy favorite to defend its team title.
The meet is scheduled to begin at noon.
Linn-Mar and Iowa City High also have some strong swimmers, but neither squad can match West’s overall depth, which usually is a deciding factor in a conference or district meet setting.
Coach Byron Butler’s team is ranked No. 1 in the latest Quik Stats Iowa Power Rankings with 1,840 points and should be among the favorites to bring home a state championship next month in Iowa City.
Butler said having quality swimmers behind the team’s top performers makes a big difference.
“I wouldn’t say I am surprised,” Butler said of the No. 1 ranking. “We sort of have someone to fill all 24 individual spots this year. The power rankings are more of a dual ranking than an accurate depiction of what will happen at state. I think our team this year would be tough to beat in a dual against anyone.”
West has at least one swimmer ranked in the top six in all individual events with the exception of the 500-yard freestyle. In the three relays, West is no worse than third.
That explains West’s wide lead over No. 2 Ankeny (1,605) and No. 3 Bettendorf (1,600) in the power rankings.
“For meets like conference and districts (power rankings) are still fairly accurate,” he said. “Even state to some extent can mirror the rankings. However, if you have a lot of top-end talent and lack depth, you can still win the state meet.
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“A lot of teams with high power rankings might not qualify that third guy in an event to the state meet, or they may not score at that meet. That can skew things slightly.”
West is blessed with some impressive top-end talent, led by seniors Izaak Hajek and James Pinter, along with freshman sprinter Diggory Dillingham. However, the return of sophomore Jordan Christensen has provided a boost. After missing all last season with injury, Christensen ranks No. 2 in the state behind City High’s three-time state champion Forrest Frazier in the 100 breaststroke and is a key relay performer.
“I don’t think he has exceeded my expectations, but I have been pleased with some of his personal bests midway through the season,” Butler said. “I knew that if he was given the right opportunities he would seize them. He is a very hard worker and student of the sport and I’m excited to see him progress even more.”
Butler is anxious to see the new Dubuque pool.
“I think everyone will be excited to be in the new facility,” he said. “Each pool has some little things that make it unique, but they are all 25 yards long and everyone is in the same situation.
“Linn-Mar has top-end talent and some great depth to go with it. City High has arguably the best swimmer in the state (in Frazier) and a lot of other strong members. It should be a lot of fun.”