Bobcat swimmers trail only West Des Moines Valley in host invite

Saturday’s four-team race was supposed to come down to three.

Behind heavily favored West Des Moines Valley, a mere 35 points in the state’s power rankings separated Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Newton and Marshalltown in the chase for second at the Bobcat Invitational.

The Tigers got their title in the end but not without a closer-than-expected finish as a couple disqualifications kept Marshalltown within striking distance through the final event.

Valley won the 400-yard freestyle relay to prevail with 73 points, finishing six points ahead of the Bobcats.

Marshalltown powered through its fourth meet in seven days to grab a couple event victories and hold off Cedar Rapids Kennedy (57) and Newton (46) at the MHS pool.

Blair Van Staalduine and Sam Carter paired up for a win in the 2×50 freestyle relay in a time of 45.82 seconds.

The duo joined Jack Greene and Daniel Lothe for first in the 200 freestyle relay clocking 1:35.47.

“To be within 40 points with two teams, that’s pretty much a coin flip,” said MHS coach Mike Loupee of the proximity between 22nd-rated Newton (739 points), Marshalltown (24th, 717) and Cedar Rapids Kennedy (25th, 704).

“Whoever was going to swim well and take advantage of opportunities was going to be second place today and fortunately that was us.”

Marshalltown was advantageous enough to creep past the Tigers with a 54-52 lead after the 2×100 backstroke relay. Valley was disqualified in the event as well as the 200 freestyle relay.

The Cardinals faced a DQ in both the 400 freestyle relay and 200 freestyle relay.

“To be close with Valley is nice. We’re not pleased that Valley got disqualified but on the same token you take advantage of the opportunities when they’re handed to you,” said Loupee, whose squad trailed the Tigers 59-57 heading into the final event.

“We were in the hunt. Valley has got one of the best relays in the state so it was not necessarily a close race but we were in it for a little bit and our guys gave it the best they could. We’re very pleased and happy with the effort today.”

Positioned seventh in the state’s power rankings with 1,205 points, Valley captured seven event titles including a meet record of 1:38.07 set by Sam Gorham and Carl Skoog in the 2×100 freestyle relay. Ankeny established the previous mark of 1:39.23 in 2007.

Despite a strenuous week with challenging workouts between competitions, Marshalltown posted 16 lifetime-best swims and 27 season-best performances.

“To have that many (lifetime-bests) when you only have two kids swimming per event is tremendous,” said Loupee.

“The kids are a little tired but you get excited on a Saturday morning for your home invite. We’re going to swim tired most of the season, so that’s just a way of life at this point.”

Marshalltown added a quintet of second place performances highlighted by Colton Hanke and Carter. Hanke turned in lifetime-best outings in the 2×100 butterfly and 200 medley relay.

“Colton had another great meet, he’s just a workhorse,” said Loupee of the soft-spoken standout.

“He hardly ever talks, we work at getting him to crack a smile. He comes in and works every day and his times just keep dropping.”

Hanke joined Cole Podhajsky on the runner-up 2×100 butterfly relay (2:04.19), while Podhajsky and Lothe followed suit in the 2×500 freestyle relay (11:24.53).

Carter rejoined Van Staalduine for silver in the 2×100 freestyle relay (1:43.29) and improved upon his first-ever sub-23 second performance from the 2×50 freestyle relay in the process.

“Sam is swimming very hard,” said Loupee.

“He had an even faster split in the 200 free relay. He’s a distance/middle distance kid so to see his sprint times coming along is excellent.”

Van Staalduine, Hunter Barnard, Carter and Lothe took second in the 400 freestyle relay (3:35.07), while Barnard joined forces with Jack Greene for silver in the 2×200 freestyle relay (4:12.13).

The Bobcats continue to push forward with a couple more meets before the holiday break where they’ll undertake some of their biggest weeks of training. Marshalltown travels to Grinnell Tuesday at 7 p.m., before hosting Newton and Oskaloosa Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

While the training continues to pick up, the Bobcats are taking it in stride knowing it’s all part of the process in building toward February.

“We swim for districts and state,” said Van Staalduine.

“Just swimming yards is a normal day for us. We swim so we can have a really good taper for districts and make it to state.”

Notebook

Marshalltown’s JV placed third with 48 points. Valley topped the field at 98, while Cedar Rapids Kennedy was second (56) and Newton finished fourth (35).