Cards’ season off to record-breaking start
Luke Norcross had been waiting for this moment for a long time. Since before the senior began high school.
The boys swim team record board at the Newton YMCA has remained unchanged since 2007, taunting him and Cardinal swimmers that have competed since.
Until Tuesday night.
Newton’s season-opening dominant performance in a triangular vs. Ottumwa and Southeast Polk was highlighted by the first broken school record in five years as the foursome of Norcross, freshman Austin Bunker, seniors Ryan Jolivette and Matheus Pinto set broke a 16-year-old mark in the 200-meter freestyle, winning the event and setting a new standard of 1 minute, 45.06 seconds.
“It’s been a goal of mine since I was a little kid,” Norcross said. “I work at the Y, sitting in that lifeguard chair and staring up at that record board all the time. It’s a dream come true.”
The old mark was 1:45.44, set in 1996.
The Cardinals picked up two wins on the night, defeating Ottumwa 59-35 and Southeast Polk by a score of 55-39 — getting their season off to a start that couldn’t have went much better.
Newton won eight of the 11 varsity events, second in one and third in three others.
“I’m really thrilled with the way we swam tonight,” said a drenched Cardinals coach Dave Hook, who took a celebratory jump in the pool with his swimmers after the meet. “I knew the competition was going to be good, and we just came to perform.”
The meet was a coming out party for Newton senior Matheus Pinto — a foreign exchange student from Brazil. Many Cardinal fans probably didn’t know about him before Tuesday night, but they surely do now after he won two individual events and was part of two winning relays. He cruised to wins in the 200 individual medley and 100 freestyle, swam second in the winning 200 medley relay and anchored the record-setting 200 freestyle relay.
“Obviously he had a very good meet,” Hook said of Pinto. “He’s going to be able to swim wherever we want him to. He’s had a lot of experience in Brazil. Luckily now we have him on our team, and we’re very thankful for that.”
“He’s been huge,” Norcross added. “He’s been pushing me and everyone in practice. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Newton won the meet’s first three events, beginning with the 200 medley relay team of Norcross, Pinto, sophomore Brandon Miller and Bunker taking first in 1:58.55 — only 1.11 seconds off a 32-year-old school record. Bunker then won the next event, the 200 freestyle in 2:16.55, while Jolivette took second in 2:18.99 to earn big points for the Cards. Pinto and Miller followed that by going 1-3 in the 200 IM. Pinto won by a 12-second margin in 2:21.59, while Miller finished in 2:39.50.
Norcross appeared to pick up another victory for Newton in the 50 freestyle as he touched first, but a flinch on the starting block resulted in a disqualification.
“I was pretty bummed, but I knew that we still had a decent lead and had lots of fast swimmers to go, so I just put it behind me,” Norcross said.
Newton senior Josh Smith took fourth in the 50 freestyle in 29.17 seconds, followed by Miller taking third in the 100 butterfly in 1:11.49.
Pinto earned the Cards’ next victory, which came in the 100 freestyle in 55.82 seconds — nearly 2.5 seconds ahead of second. Bunker followed with an easy win in the 400 freestyle in 4:50.42, while senior Spencer Hook took third in 5:39.48.
Then came Newton’s record 200 freestyle relay, which won by more than a four-second margin.
“They had a great race. I knew they had a chance at it, and they went after it and got it,” Hook said.
Newton won the next two events as well. Norcross won the 100 backstroke in 1:08.26, and then senior Cody Maxwell and sophomore Jeff Fitzgerald went 1-3 in the 100 breaststroke with times of 1:20.57 and 1:23.68.
The Cards ended the meet with the 400 freestyle relay team of Miller, junior Paul DeHart, Fitzgerland and Jolivette taking third in 4:27.93.
“It was awesome,” Norcross said about the night. “It was one of the greatest days in this sport for me. Everything was going well.”
Newton’s next competition is a triangular on Nov. 29 with Waukee at Des Moines Lincoln.