It’s a rare feat in any sport to go throughout the season undefeated. It’s even rarer to be able to stare down some of the toughest competition around and hold up that improbable streak.
Newton senior Matheus Pinto accomplished just that on Saturday at the IHSAA district swimming meet in Johnston. Pinto took the top spots in both the 50-yard (21.37) and 100-yard (22.90) freestyle events and will compete for the Cardinals at the state meet in Marshalltown on Saturday.
Pinto also fired off a blistering 22.48 in the 400-yard relay to secure a third place for Newton, barely edging out Des Moines Roosevelt senior Max Ward.
Newton coach Dave Hook talked about Pinto’s consistency afterward.
“Matheus has done a great job, He’s done everything we’ve asked him to,” Hook said. “He’s a true competitor. He’s undefeated this year. I know he’s going to do a great job at the meet next week.”
Pinto was not the only bright spot for Newton on the day. The team finished fourth overall (142) behind West Des Moines Valley (342), Johnston (336) and Des Moines Roosevelt (177).
The Cardinals got strong performances out of senior Luke Norcross, who finished fifth in the 100-yard backstroke (58.03) and eighth in the 50-yard freestyle (22.81), and freshman Austin Bunker, who took seventh in the 100-yard butterfly (26.90). Both were also key cogs in the Cardinals’ 200 freestyle (1:30.70) and 400 freestyle (3:20.93) relay teams, which placed fourth and third respectively. also qualifying for the state meet.
Hook was beaming with pride as he talked about his team as well as the effort he received from the freshman Bunker.
“They were unbelievable, just unbelievable. They met all the goals I had for them and then some,” Hook said. “Austin has just been phenomenal as far as what he’s done individually and in the relays. He has really done such a great job.”
Bunker’s contributions to the team definitely stood out as a good sign for the future of the Cardinals’ swim program. He talked about the atmosphere of the meet and how he felt about being able to help his team out even as one of the youngest swimmers there.
“It’s definitely nerve-racking. As soon as I walked through the door, my heart was just going all over the place. It’s crazy, but I’m happy with the way the meet turned out. I’m very excited,” Bunker said. “I think I did pretty good. I dropped a whole bunch of time and was able to help out on those relays. I definitely just kept improving and getting better this year.”
The Newton swimmers were not the only Cardinals to walk away with accolades in the meet, however. In what appeared to come as a complete surprise to him and his staff, Hook and his coaches were awarded the coaching staff of the year.
“It feels really cool, and I definitely feel honored,” Hook said.
The Cardinals’ relay team ended the day with their aforementioned third place in the 400-yard freestyle relay. It took the all-out effort of each of their four swimmers (Norcross, Bunker, Pinto and senior Ryan Jolivette). Pinto dramatically touched the wall mere milliseconds before Ward, much to the delight of his teammates.
Rejoicing together for one final time before the state meet next weekend, it was a fitting way to end the team’s meet, and a nice moment for the seniors to remember.
As mentioned earlier, the Cardinals send Pinto to the state meet next Saturday in Marshalltown. Along with Pinto, the Cardinals send their 400 and 200 freestyle relay teams.
Sports writer Dustin Turner may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 440, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.