Jesse Huff encouraged his young Dubuque Senior girls swim team to soak in as much as possible about the Iowa state meet this weekend in Marshalltown.
And use it as motivation during the offseason.
The Rams scored team points in two of their three relays to place 25th with 18 points at the Marshalltown YMCA. Hempstead and Wahlert did not score team points despite having near-misses.
“We talked a lot about getting a taste of what the state meet and seeing what everything is like, remembering that almost all of them are going to be back next year,” said Huff, the sixth-year coach who returns five of the seven swimmers who competed Saturday. “Hopefully, next year we can take that step forward after knowing what it’s like here. Having some success in the 200 free relay is going to help fuel that as well.”
Junior Maci Boffeli, freshmen Kaitlyn Vantiger and Molly Gilligan and junior Tabitha Monahan shaved 2.45 seconds off their seed time to finish 10th and score 14 team points in the 200 freestyle relay in 1:40.28. The Rams shifted personnel from last week’s state qualifying meet, where they landed the No. 15 seed.
“We moved some people around and tried to stack it as much as we could,” said Boffeli, a Cascade High School student who swims for Senior. “The important thing was getting out in front of our heat, staying there and avoiding the backwater. That made a huge difference in finishing second in our heat when we were supposed to get seventh.
“We had a pretty good experience this weekend, especially the freshmen, and hopefully it keeps building. We plan to come back next year and have an even better experience. All of us train together during the offseason, so we’ll be able to motivate each other so we’re prepared to have a big year next year.”
Senior also scored four team points by taking 15th place in the 200 medley relay. Vantiger (backstroke), Boffeli (breaststroke), Gilligan (butterfly) and Monahan (freestyle) went 1:51.65 at state. They won the regional meet in 1:50.49 to earn the No. 7 seed for state.
Vantiger, seniors Izzy Gile and Molly Strohmeyer, and freshman Savanna Koch placed 29th in the 400 freestyle relay. Vantiger, Gile and Koch all attend Western Dubuque.
Wahlert finished just out of the points race with a 17th-place performance in the 400 freestyle relay and an 18th in the 200 medley relay. The top 16 score points.
The all-senior quartet of Hayley Welbes, Abby Wuebker, Anna Kalb and Zoe Heiar swam 3:44.53 in the 400 free relay to miss 16th place by one second. Sophomore Avery Schmidt (backstroke) and seniors Ariana Yaklich (breaststroke), Heiar (butterfly) and Welbes (freestyle) swam a 1:52.44 in the medley relay and missed 16th place by .75 seconds.
The Golden Eagles also finished 20th in the 200 freestyle relay. Welbes, sophomore Brooke Wuebker, junior Natalie Kelzer and Yaklich went 1:43.16.
Hempstead’s top relay performance came from seniors Samantha Fish and Emily Rober and freshmen Kenzie Tomkins and Nora Davis, who went 3:53.04 to place 28th in the 400 freestyle relay. Fish (backstroke), freshman Kate Duehr (breaststroke), Rober (butterfly) and Tomkins (freestyle) took 31st in the medley relay with a 1:58.99.
Ames won the team championship with 303 points, 25.5 ahead of runner-up Iowa City West, which set three state meet records on Saturday. Scarlet Martin went 53.01 in the 100 butterfly and 54.14 in the backstroke to break the records she set Friday night in the preliminary rounds, while Aurora Roghair set the new standard in the 500 freestyle with a 4:45.78.
The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union hosted the meet without spectators, following a similar plan in place for regionals last week.
“It was different,” Huff said. “The athletes did a nice job of keeping it loud during the races, but it was weird. I’m not going to lie.”