Four is not a crowd: Ames hoists another trophy
The advice state champion diver Maggie James gave her coach Dan Flannery didn’t do much good.
Flannery still finished up his flip into the Linda Bloom Natatorium pool by landing directly on his back.
It was one of the few things that didn’t go exactly as planned for the Little Cyclones as Ames collected its fourth straight team championship at the Iowa Girls High School State Swimming and Diving Championships on Saturday at the Marshalltown YMCA.
Ames won three individual titles but scored points in all 12 events this weekend. The 302 points also was enough to beat runner-up Pleasant Valley by 51.
“The pool jump never gets old,” Flannery said. “I did a cannon ball the first year and then just dove in the second year. Last year, I did the world’s greatest belly flop. If we won four I said I had to do my flip. The divers tried to give me some advice. I got about a five-minute lesson from Maggie James on it. I am not sure it worked.”
Don’t worry coach, everything else worked just fine.
The Little Cyclones recorded a relay win in the 200-yard medley relay and also picked up wins from James in diving and Sara Bentley in the backstroke. The Little Cyclones led Pleasant Valley by 38 points after Friday’s diving competition and then pulled away from the Spartans when they scored 40 more points in the 100 backstroke.
“You win team titles because you score points in every event,” Flannery said. “This was a total team effort. I really want them to enjoy this one. We didn’t want to put the pressure on the divers and the backstrokers. But you have to give them credit. They played a big role in this championship.”
Pleasant Valley was the state runner-up for the second consecutive season. The Spartans got a victory from Sydney Angell in the 200 individual medley. They also came in second in three other events while placing in the top five in three more.
But the Spartans couldn’t overcome Ames in the Little Cyclones’ best events. They did not have a diver and scored zero points in the backstroke.
“I am really happy with how they did,” Pleasant Valley coach Jay Smith said. “We had a really good diver but she got hurt a week before regionals. She broke her nose. We got some backstrokers coming in next year, so that should help. We’ll be the same exact team next year.”
West Des Moines Valley ended up third in the team race despite its highest finish being one runner-up tally. The Tigers scored 182 points on the day, which was just ahead of fourth-place Cedar Falls (177) and Council Bluffs Lewis Central (166) was fifth after closing out the meet with a win in the 400 freestyle relay. Lewis Central sisters – Lauren Leehy and MyKenzie Leehy – also went 1-2 in the 100 freestyle.
“The girl swimmers continue to push the limits in the pool,” said Marshalltown coach Angie Nelson. “Ames winning it every year is not necessarily a bad thing. I think it brings out the best in the other swimmers. It is pushing the rest of the field to get better. It is inspiring some great swims.”
The only repeat champion was Bentley in the 100 backstroke. Southeast Polk sophomore Allyssa Fluitt won the 200 and 500 freestyle events, and Bettendorf’s Maddy Burnham won the 50 freestyle and the 100 butterfly and helped the Bulldogs climb to the top of the podium in the 200 freestyle relay.
Fluitt was voted as the Athlete of the Year. The Ram sophomore already has locked up the state’s record in the 200 freestyle and should challenge the 500 freestyle mark before she is done. She is one of only seven swimmers to ever go under 5 minutes in the event after stopping the clock at 4:56.61 Saturday. The next fastest time was 5:04.59 by Cedar Falls junior Brittany Moffatt.
“She is a great kid. It is a pleasure to coach her,” Southeast Polk coach Adam Schulte said of his sophomore sensation. “She is obviously fast and a really good swimmer, but she never loses that smile she has on her face either. I don’t know what her ceiling is, but we still have some things we are working on. She is a hard working kid and hopefully she just keeps getting better.”
Depth has come into play in the last two state swim meets. And right now, no one has more depth than the Little Cyclones, who swam four freshmen on the day. They scored points from two different swimmers or divers in seven events. Three backstrokers ended up in the top 10 and three divers were in the first 15 positions.
“It feels pretty good. I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to jinx it. I just thought not talking about it would help,” Flannery said of the possibility of repeating again. “Now it’s kind of hitting me, and I am really proud of our seniors. They have done something that’s special. Not many kids can say that they won four straight team titles.”
Lizzie Brown of Iowa City High was the final individual champion. She won the 100 breaststroke in 1:03.86. … Valley won four straight titles from 2005-2008. Prior to that, Bettendorf and Des Moines Hoover also won the title in four straight seasons. Cedar Falls won six in a row from 1993-1998. Mason City and Bettendorf also had runs of three straight in the late 1980s and early 1990s. … The diving title for James was her third straight. She will have a chance to win her fourth next year as a Little Cyclone senior. … The Marshalltown YMCA may not always be the host of the top swim meet in the state of Iowa, but Flannery is fond of the location and the volunteers who put the meet together. “The location is great and we get a lot of fans here,” Flannery said. “It is second to none as far as how its run. I may be biased though because we have done very well in this building. It has been good to us.”