Marshalltown boys' swim coach Mike Loupee admits that his young Bobcat squad will be a work in progress.
Ten of the 22 swimmers have never swam competitively and only seven make up the junior and senior classes. That means things are pretty wide open this preseason. The time to show what you can do is now.
"A fair assessment of our team is that we are young and fairly inexperienced," Loupee said. "We are very pleased so far though. The work ethic has been tremendous. We have talked about the type of team we are. We need to develop some strokes and a focus will be to develop depth through the course of the season. Anybody has a chance to swim varsity."
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
The Marshalltown High School boys’ swim team has two returning state qualifiers this season. Both Blair Van Staalduine, left, and Sam Carter will be asked to carry the load for the Bobcats in the pool as only seven of the 22 swimmers are juniors and seniors.
Competition usually brings out the best in everyone. That is what Loupee is counting on this year as he welcomes just two returning state qualifiers - senior Sam Carter and junior Blair Van Staalduine - back into the pool.
Van Staalduine scored two top-15 finishes last year at state. He took 11th in the 50-yard freestyle and is the only returner from the 200 medley relay team that placed 14th.
"We've been practicing hard and blasting the turns," said the Bobcat junior. "I think we feel a lot stronger in the water right now.
"The younger kids will have to step up a lot, but I think they are confident and ready to go."
Carter advanced to the state meet in the 500 freestyle and was just a few spots off another state berth in the 200 freestyle.
"I almost got under 5 minutes in the 500 last year so that is definitely one of my goals this year," Carter said. "Other than that, I will just work hard in practice and see what happens. I'd like to qualify in the 200. I know I didn't swim my best last year at districts. That motivates me for this year though."
Both Van Staalduine and Carter are best at freestyle with Van Staalduine controlling the sprints and Carter leading the way in the distance races. But with so much inexperience and a question mark in depth, Loupee said he may need his top two swimmers to be more versatile this year.
"Sam can do all four strokes and we may need him to do all four with our lack of depth," Loupee said. "There also is a lot of spots we can put Blair, too. We may need both of those guys to swim in spots they aren't used to swimming but they are both up to that challenge."
The expectations for both Carter and Van Staalduine are high. Both are trying to be state qualifiers in three straight seasons.
Of the 10 swimmers who bested Van Staalduine in the 50 at state, only two will be back in the pool this year. Carter also wants another chance to get into the top 10 in the 500.
"I think he definitely has some possibilities," Loupee said of Van Staalduine. "He knows that working hard will be key to his success. He will start out strong.
"Sam is a young man that would rather have his actions speak more than his words. He is bigger and stronger and we hope that bodes well at the start of the season. He is leading us well right now. I am really excited for what is in store for Sam this year."
The other two seniors on the roster are Hunter Barnard and Konner Kacmarynski. Joining Van Staalduine as juniors will be Zach Devine, Colton Hanke and Sam Johnson.
There are 12 sophomores in the pool this year, and leading the way from that group will be Jack Greene, Devin Carlon, Ryan Hass, Daniel Lothe and Cole Podhajsky.
We need these guys to step up into the freestyle to fill out some relays," Loupee said. "There are a lot of question marks, but the work ethic has been great. I think the team is going to develop well and we're excited about the possibilities."
The CIML is once again one of the best leagues in the state. Loupee expects Ames and West Des Moines Valley to be in the top five but also likes some of Dowling Catholic's returners as well as Waukee and Johnston's numbers.
The Bobcats' goal during the early season meets is to find out what they have in the pool and to see how they stack up against an opponent. And then the early-season meets hope to get MHS prepared for districts and state.
"It's a brutal conference to compete in, but we enjoy that because that is going to make us better at districts and state," said Loupee. "We always train for that district meet and to get as many guys through to state as possible.
"When we swim against those top teams, it's an opportunity to use that as a measuring stick. We use those as opportunities to swim fast and set PRs."
The first competitive meet of the season takes place Tuesday at home against Boone. Action begins at 5:30 p.m. The Bobcats then travel to Boone a few days later when MHS takes part in the Boone Relays at 10 a.m.
"We lost some meets we shouldn't have last year," said Carter, a two-time state qualifier.. "We didn't realize how important the back end of the scoring was. I think we know that this year and that should help us in some of those early meets."