Bobcats take training break in time for own invite

Concluding a busy Homecoming week with its first time-seeded meet of the season, Marshalltown girls swim coach Angie Nelson found the perfect moment to let off the accelerator in practice – if only momentarily.

The Bobcats have plenty of tough training ahead, though a couple light days of practice allowed the team to turn in numerous personal-best times against a competitive field at the Bobcat Invitational on Saturday.

MHS finished third with 256 points, while Johnston topped the field at 362 and Lewis Central (290) was second.

“The next couple weeks are going to be really hard,” said Nelson. “We have to, the season is so short that we just have to hammer down. You can’t really stop for a meet.”

With plenty on their plate in the weeks to come, Nelson slightly shifted gears to make sure her swimmers were ready for Saturday.

“With Homecoming we gave a couple days of light rest. We still came in and swam, but we didn’t do as much intensity as we normally do,” Nelson said. “We wanted some really good swims out of today and in a time-seeded meet because that’s really where champions are made. When you’re swimming right next to a girl and you know what her time is, you’re going to sink or swim.”

Marshalltown rose to the occasion early and often Saturday as the Bobcats opened racing with a title in the 200-yard medley relay. Chloe Kuehner, Raechel Hannam, Therese Kuhlman and Leah Barkema turned in a time of 1 minute, 56.05 seconds – besting last year’s regional mark by three hundredths of a second.

It was the Bobcats’ lone title, though it set a high mark for the team to build from as they look ahead.

“That’s super promising for us,” Nelson said. “That really boosts our confidence on where the medley could end up by the regional meet.

Barkema added a runner-up finish in the 100 freestyle clocking 55.81 and Kuehner followed suit in the 100 breaststroke in a personal-best 1:13.66. Barkema also claimed third in the 50 freestyle with her best-ever time of 25.65 seconds.

Kuhlman continued the personal record-setting day with a bronze performance of 2:25.92 in the 200 individual medley and a fourth-place finish in the 100 butterfly (1:06.87).

The Bobcats garnered third in both the 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relays. Hayley Lillibridge, Maggie Carnahan, Kuehner and Hannam tallied 1:48.90 in the 200 free relay, before Barkema, Lillibridge, Carnahan and Kuhlman recorded a 3:54.75 in the meet finale – just off their best time at Mason City Tuesday.

Hannam (1:14.80) and Carolina Freire-Vales (1:16.01) finished 4-5 in the 100 breaststroke, joining Kuehner’s runner-up finish to rack up 34 points in the event.

Lewis Central won a meet-best seven events, while Johnston’s depth (eight runner-up finishes) helped the Dragons run away with the title. Johnston finished sixth at the state meet last fall, while Lewis Central was 12th. Boone (149), Carroll (78), Ottumwa (72) and Fairfield (67) completed the seven-team field.

“Today was all about focus and trying to put the events of the week away and just spend a couple hours swimming,” Nelson said of the Homecoming festivities surrounding her squad.

“They did a nice job with that. I wanted to be a little bit more competitive with Lewis Central, but the times and races we turned in today were pretty good. We were competitive and that’s always exciting.”

Once the excitement of Saturday and Homecoming subsides, the Bobcats will be back to business next week as they return to their intense slate of training.

“The next couple weeks are going to be pretty hard but the hope is that by the Johnston Invite (Oct. 12) we’ll see times like today under some hard training – and hopefully they’ll be a little bit faster,” Nelson said. “By then the girls will have a lot of training under their belt and that meet will be a good indicator for regionals.”

The Bobcats return to competition against Southeast Polk on the road Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.