Courier Staff Writer
When the Ottumwa swim team arrives at Newton for its first dual of the season Tuesday, it will look a lot different than the team the Cardinals faced off against last season — and Heidi Owens couldn’t be happier about this development.
Owens, who begins her second season as coach of the Ottumwa boys swim team, has a much broader base of swimmers to work with thanks to an influx of talented swimmers from outside of Ottumwa.
“Last year when we walked into Newton and we swam, a lot of kids were just beginners,” the coach said, “ [now] when we walk in with kids who already have that experience it will be fun to see how we do against a big team.”
The swim program has ballooned from 18 — the number of boys out for the sport last season and the season before that — to 28.
“We’re really excited with the numbers and the new talent we have on the team,” Owens said.
“The pool is full, that’s for sure.”
For Owens, the expanded roster was a surprise; a pleasant and exciting surprise. Owens said this year’s team includes several swimmers outside of Ottumwa, including six from Fairfield, three from Albia and one from Pella. She specifically mentioned freshman Logan Angstead (Fairfield) and Albia freshmen Nathan Maughan and senior Caleb Maughan as examples of talented swimmers who could heighten Ottumwa’s chances of being more successful this season. This injection of new blood coupled with the return of some of last year’s most prominent swimmers will hopefully be the elixir needed to generate a couple more dual victories for Ottumwa.
“We sure hope we can win some of those dual meets we were close at last year, but [we] just didn’t have enough players out to get those points,” Owens said.
Seniors Adam Mueller (Fairfield), Michael Etnyre and junior Grant Guillion were three of the team’s most productive swimmers. In addition, Owens said the return of juniors Riley Hammel and Caleb Copple and senior Nick Moreland adds strength to the team’s roster.
That all-important, confidence-building first dual victory proved to be stubbornly elusive last season — they finished 1-8 — but the boys did manage to pick up their first win on Senior Night when they topped Grinnell/BGM 89-77 in their final dual of the season in front of an energetic crowd at The Beach Ottumwa.
Mueller, a senior from Fairfield, had a a significant role in the victory: he was involved in four, including the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke, of the Bulldogs nine victories. Etnyre (Pella) also did a lot to bolster Ottumwa’s cause, taking first in the 200 individual medley with 2:24.77 and first in the 500 freestyle with 5:48.34.
Relay races were a source of strength for the Bulldogs last season. They had three relay teams — 200 freestyle, 200 medley relay, 400 freestyle — that were ranked among the top 325 in the state, Owens previously said.
Now, with an expanded roster, Owens said the Bulldogs will be able to compete in all the relays: sometimes they didn’t have enough swimmers to compete in every relay race. Ottumwa finished the season on a positive note, with a respectable fifth place finish in districts. The boys placed in the top five in five events.
Etynre tied for fifth in the 50 freestyle with Waterloo East’s Reid Potwin with 23.97 and Gullion claimed fifth in the 100 butterfly with 58.82. And, as usual, the Bulldogs overall score was buoyed by solid relay performances: Ottumwa’s 200 medley (1:50:09), 200 freestyle (1:35.96) and 400 freestyle (3:37.88) relay teams all finished fifth.
Ottumwa’s fifth-place finish at the CIML Metro Meet provides another example of the important role relay races played in terms of Bulldogs overall score. The highlights of the meet for the team were third-place finishes in the 200 (1:38.4) and 400 (3:39.55) freestyle relay races. Guillion and Mueller, however, also boosted Ottumwa’s overall score with top-five finishes: Guillion took fourth in the 100 butterfly in a time of 59.56 and Mueller grabbed fifth in the 100 backstroke with 1:05.57.