Last year, members of the Newton boys swim team went up to Marshalltown to support teammate Matt Thoma at the state swim meet.
Thoma was the lone Cardinal competitor in the large field, and the returning members to this year's team are hoping to change that this time around.
"We went up there and there's no seating. It's all standing room and it's just crazy," Newton senior Ryan Jolivette said. "They do an Olympic-style line with flags and Matt was the only one from Newton, so we're hoping to bring some more people this year."
Newton will control its own destiny concerning how many swimmers will take the trip to Marshalltown this year when it competes at districts tomorrow in Johnston. The team has been tapering the past week, but the process was somewhat interrupted when more snow rolled through town earlier in the week.
"The snow day didn't help," Newton coach Dave Hook said, "Some of the guys were able to make it in and some of them weren't. But for the mostpart, it's been going really well. These guys have gone through this before and know what to expect, so as far as knowing what's going on, this group is doing fine."
With a good number of seniors and experienced swimmers in general, the taper process is somewhat automatic. However, team members like freshman Austin Bunker who are going through it for the first time have needed a little extra guidance from his more experienced teammates. Bunker helped the Newton Y Penguins to a sixth-place finish at state last year, but knows he’s with the big fish now.
“It’s pretty much excitement and nerves working together,” Bunker said. “They’ve definitely been showing the ropes on how this all works. Without them, things probably would’ve been disastrous.”
Besides going through the taper, the team has spent the past week establishing its goals for this weekend. The 200-yard freestyle relay team is aiming for a school-record time of 1 minute, 32.58 seconds, knowing it will probably need to break that to reach state. Individually, senior Matheus Pinto also has his specific times set for events where he is heavily expected to push through to state.
“They’ve been figuring out their own goal times and I’ve been giving them some expectations for what they should be getting,” Hook said. “As far as the relays go, they know how fast they need to be to go to state.”
Hook has coached four state qualifiers since taking over as coach. Among the six other teams Newton will compete against Saturday, the team has only seen two in direct competition — West Des Moines Valley and Des Moines Roosevelt. That leaves Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln/Thomas Jefferson, Des Moines East, Des Moines Hoover/North and host Johnston.
Although swimmers can’t control what their competition is doing once they’re in the pool, having some prior knowledge does help the cause.
“Swimming against those guys gives them the sense that they’ve seen them before and they know what they need to do,” Hook said. “In our meet against Roosevelt we had a couple of good, competitive swims, so we’ll be looking at something similar.”
For Newton’s assorted seniors, Saturday brings the motivation of a possible end to their swimming careers. Some additional motivation comes from former teammate Kyle Lockhart, who narrowly missed state as part of the 200 free relay that took 26th last season. He has since moved to Florida, but Jolivette and some of the other team members have kept in touch with him through Facebook.
“Luke (Norcross), Spencer (Hook) and I have been swimming since we were eight, and we know this could be our last meet,” Jolivette said. “It’s definitely the biggest meet I’ll be in, and hopefully we’ll be able to extend our season another week.”
The meet is scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m. at Johnston High School.