Girls improve individual placings, but not enough to rise against tough teams

Ben Olson/Sports Editor

At the women’s state swimming and diving championships this past Friday and Saturday, Nov. 6 and 7, Cedar Falls overcame a week of extreme illness to capture fourth place overall with 165 points. With many teams being surprisingly competitive, Cedar Falls finished behind Ames in third, Bettendorf in second and the state champs Mason City.

Even after finishing runner up last year, head coach Dick Marcussen does not feel at a loss after moving back two spots.
“I’m happy. We did as well as we could have. They all had a great effort,” Marcussen said. “I told them on the bus on the way home that I’ve never had a team fight so hard for something.”
The competition began with the diving portion on Friday, where senior Allea Pollock finished 13th and junior Lauren Halloran finished 24th for Cedar Falls.

The next day at the swimming competition, senior standout Bailey Pons fought against illness that almost kept her from swimming in the meet at all by convincingly winning the 200 and 500 freestyle, improving upon a pair of second place finishes in those two events last year. Pons was also recognized as athlete of the year at the meet as voted by the swim coaches in Iowa.

“I am definitely happy with two firsts, but it’s so cool that I was voted the swimmer of the year – it was totally unexpected,” Pons said.
Sophomore Kelsey Abbas also improved upon her third place finish in the 100 backstroke last year, placing second in 58.93 seconds, and sophomore Alesha Rettenmeier finished behind Pons in ninth in the 500 freestyle, greatly improving upon her 20th place finish last year.
In addition, senior Ashlee Graham placed 13th in the 100 fly for the Tigers, and sophomore Montana Clasby claimed 8th in both the 100 breastroke and 200 IM.

The 100 breast proved to be the fastest event of the day, as all of the top four swimmers’ times achieved All-American status and also were four of the six fastest times in state history in that event, adding to the extreme level of competition.

“The overall competition in every event was tough and spread out among each team. There were some outstanding swims. I was more concerned with how our kids felt after being sick the week before. We had to get the most out of them as we could,” Marcussen said.

Clearly, illness was the main obstacle for the Tigers this year leading up to State, which also led to some changes in the event lineup.
“We had to deal with sickness throughout the week, and we had to put new swimmers in relays as replacements who had never swam at state before, so those were small challenges,” Pons said.

“We just relied on a lot of hoping and praying for everyone to get better the week leading up. We just kept trying to keep everyone’s hopes up. Mason City deserved to win, but we did the best we could,” Marcussen said.

The main downer of the day for Cedar Falls came during the last event of the meet, the 400 freestyle relay. The Tigers swam out of their minds and posted the second-fastest time, or so they thought. A timing pad in the water broke as Ames was finishing the last leg of the relay, so the referee made a judgement call that Ames was actually faster than the time they posted, bumping Cedar Falls’ time back to third-best in the relay, and preventing the Tigers from finishing third overall.

“The referee had to make a judgement call in that situation, and it wasn’t in our favor, but the kids showed sportsmanship and went with it,” Marcussen said.

Overall, Cedar Falls rallied together against the odds.

“Everyone swam as a team. Leading up was stressful for the girls and the coaching staff, but everyone had a good showing,” Marcussen said. “We kept in the race all the way to the end.”

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