Leah Barkema's offseason workouts have paid off in the pool this season.
That hard work culiminated with another impressive performance Saturday as the Bobcat senior improved her times and her qualifying places in both of her individual events and helped the Marshalltown swim team score points in multiple events.
Barkema's 13th place finish in the 50-yard freestyle added to the points the Bobcats already scored in the 200 medley relay as MHS ended up with eight points on the day and dropped time in four of the five events.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Marshalltown senior Leah Barkema swam in four events at the Iowa Girls High School State Swimming and Diving Championships on Saturday at the Marshalltown YMCA. Barkeman was 13th in the 50-yard freestyle, 17th in the 100 freestyle and helped the Bobcats claim 15th- and 21st-place finishes in the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay, respectively.
"Overall, we swam pretty well," Marshalltown coach Angie Nelson said. "Leah had a great day. She moved up in both of her individual events and also had great splits in the two relays."
Barkema's time was not better than her regional-winning 24.71 seconds, but her 24.87 allowed her to move up four spots after swimming in the outside lane.
She also recorded a 24 second split on her anchor leg of the medley relay and the foursome of Chloe Kuehner, Raechel Hannam, Therese Kuhlman and Barkema ended up 15th with a time of 152.99, which was not fast enough to set a new school record but was good enough to best their qualifying mark of 1:53.29.
"I think I did good," Barkema said. "I moved up in placing and I really moved up in my heat. Scoring points individually was great.
"I am very pleased. I am really happy, proud of how I performed and it was fun to be here one last time."
The Ames Little Cyclones won the team title for the fourth straight season. They scored 302 points and bested runner-up Pleasant Valley by 51. West Des Moines Valley (182) was third, Cedar Falls (177) ended up fourth and Council Bluffs Lewis Central (166) took fifth.
"There was a lot of good swims today," Nelson said of the rest of the field. "The girl swimmers continue to push the limits. It was an amazing day."
The goal for the Bobcats every year at the state meet is to drop time, move up their placing and score as many points as possible.
The points were hard to come by with such a tough field, but the Bobcats dropped time in four of their five entries.
That was good enough for Kuehner, who swam in her fourth and final state meet when she opened up the 200 medley relay with a 50-yard backstroke.
"The backstroke isn't my best stroke, but the team was going to be happy with any improvement," said Kuehner, who verbally committed to swim at the University of Nebraska-Omaha this weekend. "We had fun and did our best. It would have been icing on the cake to set that record, but it was a good day."
The three other events that featured Bobcats included Barkema in the 100 freestyle, Hannam in the 100 breaststroke and the foursome of Hayley Lillibridge, Maggie Carnahan, Barkema and Kuhlman in the 400 freestyle relay.
Barkema came into the meet with a personal-best time of 55.08 in the 100 freestlye but moved up the board to 17th place overall when she hit the wall in 54.88. That spot was just one off another point in the team race.
Hannam got off to a slow start in the breaststroke but still came in at 1:10.98, which put her in 22nd overall.
"She swam her heart out," Nelson said. "Raechel just couldn't get into a rhythm in the first 50 yards."
The final event of the day saw the Bobcats come in 21st. The 400 freestyle relay dropped more time and stopped the clock at 3:45.81, which was about 1.5 seconds faster than their qualfiying time.
"It was a nice ending to my swimming career," Kuhlman said. "The 15th place finish in the medley relay was a good way to go out. And the time in the 400 freestlye gave us a good ending, too."
Carnahan was competing in her first-ever state meet and she was forced to sit around all day and wait for her only event, which was the last event of the day.
"It is hard waiting around and not swimming until the very end," Kuhlman said. "For her to go and swim the way she did was great for our team. It was a good day."
Kuehner, Kuhlman and Barkema were all swimming in their fourth state meets. Lillibridge has been to three state meets, while Hannam, who is just a sophomore, was swimming for the second time at state. ... Kuehner said she picked UNO over South Dakota and Grinnell. ... The state athlete of the year was Southeast Polk's Allyssa Fluitt. The Ram sophomore was victorious in the 200 and 500 freestyle events. She already has the state record in the 200. ... Ames had a 38-point lead over Pleasant Valley after diving and then pulled away from its competition after scoring 40 points in the 100 backstroke.