MARSHALLTOWN — Awesome, super, incredible.
These were the sorts of words pouring out of the mouths of Newton’s swimmers following their performance at the state meet in Marshalltown on Saturday. With the atmosphere in the building full of rousing support for nearly every team, it would have been understandable, perhaps even expected for the Newton boys to underperform.
However, the opposite happened.
Newton’s 200 (1 minute, 30.62 seconds) and 400-yard (3:19.96) freestyle relay teams both finished, 12th in the state. The 200 performance was impressive because they qualified fourteenth in the event following their district performance. Also, their performance in the 400 showed nearly a full second cut from their time in districts.
“I thought they did a super job to get sixth in the state and then tie for eighth along with getting eleventh and twelfth in the relays,” said coach Dave Hook. “It’s pretty impressive. I thought they did a great job.”
The Cardinal swimmers were never overwhelmed by the moment. They always appeared calm and focused despite the raucous crowd. The seniors did a good job of staying grounded at the event.
“The atmosphere was amazing. It’s great being around fans that know swimming really well as well as being around a ton of really fast swimmers,” senior Luke Norcross said. “It was really awesome. I think the four of us rose to the occasion. We love swimming under pressure and in big stages so it was fun. Today will stand out in my time at Newton.”
“It was a new experience full of ups and downs,” senior Ryan Jolivette added. “It’s much different swimming in front of a crowd like that. It’s nice. It’s fun. You get a good rush of adrenaline.”
The lone freshman on the relay teams, Austin Bunker, put in a phenomenal performance in the 400 freestyle race. Despite being sixth in their heat when Bunker launched himself toward the pool, he was able to pull the Cardinals to third place at one point. They ultimately finished fourth.
“I liked that we dropped time. We just did an amazing job. This is definitely a new experience.” Bunker said. “The atmosphere is fantastic. It really gets you pumped up. Our work on flip turns and relay exchanges really paid off.”
Senior Matheus Pinto (21.53) also made Newton history. As he stretched his arm out to touch the wall in the 50 freestyle, he became the first Newton swimmer to land on the podium at a state meet in at least 20 years. Although it was historically great for the Cardinals, he was still not terribly impressed with his performance, but then again, great competitors always want to finish first.
“This was totally different for me, so much bigger and so much harder. Everyone is swimming so fast, it’s great. I think I did better in the relays, but I’m still happy with my results,” Pinto said. “Sixth place in the state is not too bad.”
Pinto also tied for eighth in the state with his performance in the 100 freestyle (48.04).
Hook was also honored at the event along with the other coaches voted “staff of the year” at their respective districts.
“It was very nice to be honored,” Hook said. “It was an honor and was much appreciated”
Following the event, their was a somber mood surrounding Newton’s seniors. They knew that their accomplishments would not be forgotten, and they were proud of what they had achieved. The seniors reflected on their time at Newton, and what this year meant.
“I’ll never forget breaking records and swimming with some of my best friends,” Norcross said. “It’s been a great season and a great career, a lot of fun.”
“Right now I’m sad because it’s over, but the whole experience was new for everyone,” Jolivette added. “Today was definitely a positive, even just getting to today, to be here with my teammates was a great experience.”
And, despite only having one year with the team, Matheus Pinto got nostalgic when thinking about his year.
“I will probably never forget this year. It was an awesome season. I was undefeated in the regular season, and our relays did so well,” Pinto said. “We scored in both of our relays in state. It was great.”
The team took an impressive sixteenth overall (17.5 points) out of the 25 teams represented in Marshalltown.