Barkema, Bobcats bank 5 bids

WEST DES MOINES – The times were dropping like flies. And the performances were some of the best of the entire season.

The Marshalltown girls’ swim team left it all in the pool at the regional meet at West Des Moines Valley on Saturday. And when the Bobcats hit the pool in the annual state swim next weekend, there will be five entries competing against the top swimmers in Iowa.

Senior Leah Barkema will be in four events in all as her victory in the 50-yard freestyle was the highlight of the day. Barkema also qualified for the state meet in the 100 freestyle and will be a member of the 200 medley relay that also features Chloe Kuehner, Raechel Hannam and Therese Kuhlman and the 400 freestyle relay that includes Hayley Lillibridge, Maggie Carnahan and Kuhlman

“I am so pleased,” Marshalltown coach Angie Nelson said. “The girls swam so well today. They were focused. They had a little meet magic and swam their best. I think we had time drops in all but two events. That is just phenomenal.”

Barkema came into the day having to make a tough decision. She had developed a quality time in the breaststroke and almost decided to try her luck at that race.

But when it was all said and done, she went with her strength, focused on the little things and sprinted her way to a regional championship.

“I am really glad I chose the 50. That was the right decision,” said Barkema, who hit the wall in 24.71 seconds. “I worked hard. I tried to nail the little things this week, and I was confident coming in. I knew that no matter how fast the other swimmers went, I was going to go faster.”

The Bobcats finished fourth in the team race with 287 points. Newton-Colfax-Mingo-Pella was third at 336, Des Moines Roosevelt snatched second with 339 and West Des Moines Valley won the title with 476. Coming in behind Marshalltown was Southeast Polk (208), Des Moines Lincoln (190), Indianola (116), Des Moines North (107) and Ottumwa (52).

“I didn’t care what place we came in, I just wanted to beat Southeast Polk,” Nelson said. “We beat them in a dual pretty handily but lost to them in all the tournaments. We really wanted to get them today. That was our big team goal.”

Barkema also took fourth in the 100 freestyle with a time of 55.08. That time was good enough to be seeded 22nd at the state meet.

Barkema, Kuehner, Hannam and Kuhlman finished with a time of 1:53.29, which qualified 16th overall, in the medley relay. That time was good enough to place fourth Saturday.

“I love that medley,” Nelson said. “That is a great combination of girls. With one alternate, that relay could be just as good in another order. This was the best combination that we can make. Those girls just swim so well together.”

Hannam and Kuhlman will both race in multiple events Saturday.

Kuhlman teamed up with Barkema, Lillibridge and Carnahan to place fifth in the 400 freestyle relay. That time of 3:47.08 was good enough to advance to state and the Bobcats will be seeded 21st overall.

“We’ve gotten better and better as the season has gone on,” Hannam said. “It’s nice to get to where we have wanted to get to. It’s nice to see that hard work pay off.”

Hannam continued to shine in the breaststroke against a tough field Saturday. The sophomore found her stroke last year at the state meet and hasn’t looked back, according to Kuehner.

Hannam was stuck in a rut right around the 1:06 mark earlier in the year but turned in a 1:11 at the conference meet and closed that time down to 1:09.55 Saturday.

“I don’t think Raechel knew how good she was last year until the end of the year,” said Nelson. “She is a little power pack in a petite little package. She has to go for it. She just has to believe in herself and go do it.”

Hannam’s time kept her friend Kuehner out of the state meet in the breaststroke. Kuehner turned in her best time of the season at 1:11.68, which was good enough for fifth Saturday, but the final cut-off time was 1:10.56. Hannam will be seeded 15th at the state meet.

The Bobcats went 3-5-8 in the 100 breaststroke after Carolina Freire-Vales hit the wall in 1:12.23.

“Carolina, Raechel and I have been buds all year,” Kuehner said. “It has made my year to train with those girls. I am so proud of both of them. They did a fantastic job. Raechel had a great time last year at state and for her to come here today and just kill it is awesome.

“We are competitors in the pool, but I want the best for her and she wants the best for me.”

The Bobcats were close in a handful of other events.

Kuehner just missed out on the 200 individual medley. She was fifth in the Valley regional and the fourth-place finisher took the final spot. Kuehner’s time was 2:19.94 and the final qualifying time was 2:18.10.

Carnahan also missed on advancing in the 100 freestyle by just two seconds.

The 200 freestyle relay team of Kuehner, Kuhlman, Lillibridge and DarC Vopava came up just short of advancing. The Bobcats took fifth and were clocked at 1:44.48. The final qualifying time was 1:43.99.

“You can’t worry about state on a day like this,” Nelson said. “You have to focus on your times and try to control what you can control. We can’t worry about what others are doing.”

West Des Moines Valley’s run at the team title got started Thursday night at Summit Middle School when the Tigers finished in the top three spots in diving.

Morgan Rafferty won the meet easily with 433.65 points, while Lilly Seitz and Logan Jones were second and third, respectively. Marshalltown’s Phoebe Lynk was the best Bobcat finisher as she took fifth with 289.20 points. Katie Gassman (256.75) and Mary Drummer (249.50) ended up sixth and eighth, respectively.

The Iowa Girls High School State Swimming Championships will begin at noon Saturday at the Marshalltown Community YMCA.


Southeast Polk sophomore Allyssa Fluitt was named Regional Athlete of the Year after claiming easy wins in the 200 and 500 freestyle events. She also qualified with her teammates in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. “She is just amazing and makes it look so easy,” said Nelson. “She has her stuff together. She is a real champion. She is going to be somebody to watch.” The Regional Coaching Staff of the Year went Sarah Patterson and Chris Forsyth of NCMP, which was third in the team standings. Lillibridge dropped five seconds off her previous season-best time in the 500 freestyle. She hit the wall in 5:40.65, which put her ninth overall. Kuhlman also dropped around three seconds off her previous best time in the 100 butterfly. She ended up seventh overall with a 1:03.88.