BOYS STATE SWIMMING: Bobcats content with time drops at state

It’s not until you see a swimmer thrash around in the water, pounding fists of joy into the pool and pointing to their proud parents in the bleachers that you understand how much time and effort these student-athletes give to their craft.

After slimming his lifetime-best performance in the 50-yard freestyle by just two-hundredths of a second, it became obvious that Marshalltown High School sophomore Blair Van Staalduine got everything he wanted out of Saturday’s Iowa High School Boys State Swimming Championships.

In his first individual state meet event, Van Staalduine shaved the blink of an eye off his best performance and moved up from his 20th seed to 11th place as the highlight to a solid day for the Bobcats’ small state contingent at the Linda Bloom Natatorium inside the Marshalltown Community Y.

Van Staalduine’s two points put Marshalltown back into the team standings after last year’s absence, providing a reason to play about in the water after touching the wall in a time of 22.40 seconds to win the first of three heats.

“Blair took two hundreths off his time and he went from 20th to 11th and scored for us,” smiled MHS coach Mike Loupee. “It’s been a couple years since we scored points so that’s great. Blair was real excited and fired up.

“I hope that carries over to his offseason training, he’s definitely got some possibilities the next couple of years for us.”

Marshalltown’s three state meet entries either matched or improved upon their seedings, and all three took time off their previous best to provide a perfect ending for the trio of seniors who swam as Bobcats for the final time.

Seniors John Mahlstede, Raymond Dulaney and Paul Landherr joined with Van Staalduine in the meet-opening 200-yard medley relay, taking 41-hundredths off their qualifying time while matching their 14th seed. The foursome finished in a time of 1:41.15.

“We had six swims today and of those six, five are lifetime bests and everybody lowered their time,” said Loupee. “The medley relay went in 14th and came out 14th which is good, because in that middle heat you never know if teams took all of their (time) drop to get here or if they still have some. We squeezed out another half second and I think that time puts our guys fifth or sixth all-time at Marshalltown, so it’s a real good close for them.”

Mahlstede, Dulaney and Van Staalduine each swam on last year’s medley relay squad, as Marshalltown has qualified its 200 medley relay for 13 of the last 14 state meets. This year’s 14th-place finish is the Bobcats’ best in the event since the 2010 contingent took 10th.

“I’m real pleased and proud of our seniors,” said Loupee. “For John Mahlstede and Paul Landherr, their last swim was their fastest swim ever, so to cap off a career that’s what you want. Ray Dulaney was right at his, less than two-tenths off his lifetime-best.

“It’s just a great bunch of seniors, those are the type of kids you love to coach and you’d love to have on any team, and they’ll be sorely missed.”

Dulaney is the only three-time state qualifier of the group, swimming on the Bobcats’ state-qualifying 200 medley relay team each of his final three seasons.

The lone junior among Marshalltown’s state qualifiers this winter, Sam Carter chopped 2.5 seconds off his 23rd-seeded qualifying time of 5:03.20 in the 500 freestyle. Carter came in third in the opening heat and 18th overall with a 5:00.70, just missing the targeted 5-minute mark.

“He took another three seconds off and that five-minute barrier was just right there,” Loupee said. “The last thing Sam and I talked about before he swam was to take the first half of the race out aggressively and make sure that you’re in the race. My last comment to him was, ‘If you run out of gas that’s fine, I’ll come and pull you out of the pool, but let’s not leave anything in the water,’ and he didn’t, he swam a great race.

“To be right at that five-minute barrier, I know that’s probably going to stick in Sam’s craw a little bit and I wouldn’t bet against the fact that Sam will probably be in the weight room on Monday – that’s just the kind of kid he is.”

Marshalltown’s two points put them on the map in a tie for 25th place in the final team standings, helping to spell the team’s lamenting over a smaller group of state qualifiers.

“Very pleased with our outcome,” Loupee said, “we just hope to get more kids out for swimming and excited about swimming for the Bobcats. We want to make sure our program continues to grow and we continue to have these kinds of Saturdays for our kids.”

Muskies make it 3 straight

Behind a historical 1-2-3 finish in the 200 individual medley and three other event titles, the Muscatine boys’ swimming team claimed its third consecutive state championship to join an elite listing.

The top-ranked Muskies became the sixth school in state history to win at least three straight team titles, and the first since Cedar Falls in 2004-06, by compiling 180 team points to keep hard-charging Dubuque Senior at bay.

The sixth-ranked Rams got the most out of their 15 state entries and shaved time at every turn, helping to earn the Coaching Staff of the Year award for Dan Duclos from the Iowa High School Swim Coaches Association.

Dubuque Senior tried to steal Muscatine’s thunder as the meet came down the stretch, highlighted by a barnburner of a race to the finish in the 200 freestyle relay. The two top-seeded teams both broke the former state record set in 2006 by Cedar Falls, but the Rams’ 1:23.99 out-touched Muscatine’s 1:24.29. It was the only state record set during the day.

The Muskies closed with individual event victories for Alex Walton in the 100 backstroke and Travis Greenwald’s third straight state title in the 100 breaststroke.

“This has been a blistering fast state meet,” Loupee said. “We haven’t had an inordinate amount of state records but if you look at the top 12 times, what it’s taking to score (points) in the state of Iowa, it’s only been three or four years ago that the times that aren’t scoring (today) would have been on the podium.

“Overall swimming in the state of Iowa is very healthy and getting stronger all the time and that’s an exciting thing for our sport and for our state.”

Dowling Catholic, which came in third in the final standings, scored its third event win to round out the meet in a frantic-finishing 400 freestyle relay. The Maroons edged out Dubuque Senior in the neighboring lane by two-hundredths of a second.

Dowling’s Jonathan Fiepke received the IHSSCA’s Athlete of the Meet after finishing first in the 100 freestyle and second in the 50 free. He also anchored the Maroons’ winning 400 free relay and its third-place 200 free relay.

Greenwald collected two golds on the day to run his career total to seven. He also was a runner-up twice, including a second-place finish behind teammate Haden Calegan and ahead of Walton in the 200 individual medley.

Muscatine’s sweep of the IM marked the fourth time in state meet history that an event’s top three finishers were from the same school, according to the Iowa High School Athletic Association. Des Moines Roosevelt swept the 100 backstroke in 1950, Mason City took the top three positions in the 100 breaststroke in 1976, and Cedar Rapids Washington’s divers went 1-2-3 in 1981.

“To do that in the IM, to watch that, that was state history,” said Loupee. “That’s only happened three other times in the entire history in the state of Iowa.

“I don’t know what they do over there in Muscatine but you look at the kids and they’re all 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds. They look like they should be playing tight end for the Hawkeyes, but Coach (Judd) Anderson is an icon in the state in swimming, he’s been there forever and he knows every little trick. It’s hard to find a fault in that team.”