An extremely fast field of district times may have limited the Marshalltown High School boys' swimming team's number of state qualifiers, though with their tickets punched there will be nothing holding back the Bobcats Saturday.
"There's a little bit of an opportunity to take a breath, because we made it," MHS coach Mike Loupee said. "If we can relax a little bit, the guys really shouldn't feel any pressure. We are seeded kind of low, but with a lot of opportunity to move up."
The Bobcats will send three entries to the Iowa Boys State Swimming Meet at the Marshalltown Community Y, including the 200-yard medley relay along with individual qualifiers in sophomore Blair Van Staalduine (50 freestyle) and junior Sam Carter (500 freestyle).
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
Representing Marshalltown High School at Saturday’s Iowa Boys State Swimming Meet at the Community Y will be from left: Hunter Barnard, Raymond Dulaney, Blair Van Staalduine, Paul Landherr, John Mahlstede and Sam Carter.
Van Staalduine joins seniors John Mahlstede, Raymond Dulaney and Paul Landherr on the 200-yard medley relay, where the Bobcats posted the 14th fastest time of 1 minute, 41.56 seconds last Saturday, more than 4 seconds ahead of their season-best.
"Those four guys have all been swimming really well this year and when we back off and rest, I think they have more time to drop," Loupee said.
Mahlstede, Dulaney and Van Staalduine represent three-fourths of the Bobcats' 24th place 200-medley relay at state last year, though the Bobcats have their sights set on scoring this time with a top-12 finish.
Van Staalduine, who also contributed to the 21st-place 200 free relay at state last year, is seeded 20th in the 50-yard freestyle with a clocking of 22.42.
With only two-tenths of a second separating Van Staalduine from the 12th seed, Loupee believes the sophomore has a chance to climb the ranks.
"He could wind up in 24th or he could move into scoring position," Loupee said. "The 50 is a start and a turn. If you nail both of those things you're in the hunt. Blair's got an opportunity there."
Carter, who anchored the Bobcats' 400 freestyle relay at state a year ago, advanced in the 500 yard freestyle hitting the wall in 5:03.20, a 6-second drop from his previous lifetime best to earn the 23rd seed.
Loupee hopes the junior can shave at least another 3 seconds off Saturday.
"That five-minute barrier is a big one," Loupee said. "Our goal is to pace him out and get him under five minutes. If he can do that, it will set him up real well for his senior season."
While the Bobcats were left on the outside looking in for several more events, Loupee hopes his squad - now freed from the pressure of qualifying - seizes and savors the moment Saturday.
"The guys should be excited," Loupee said. "The state meet is a wonderful high school championship atmosphere with 1,500 people screaming or hollering in that room and it just vibrates.
"Hopefully the adrenaline will flow a little bit and they can swim excited without feeling any kind of pressure that they have to place anywhere."
The Bobcats will get to absorb that environment right away as the 200-yard medley relay kicks off the event schedule at 12:30 p.m.
Loupee noted just how competitive this year's district field was by using a spreadsheet with the fastest cutoff times ever in the state of Iowa as well as the five-year average.
"Of the 11 events, we had six that were faster than the fastest (cutoff) time ever and two more that were faster than the five-year average. It was an insanely fast district meet across the state," he said.