Waltermire to rep GMG at State Swim Meet

Lesli Waltermire swimming at the regional swimming on Nov. 7 in West Des Moines. Waltermire qualified for the state as part of the 200-yard medley relay and the 200 freestyle relay with the Marshalltown swim team. -- Photo by Ross Thede

WEST DES MOINES — Every tick of time off the clock moved the Bobcats’ bubble closer to bursting, but the Marshalltown girls’ swimming team didn’t want to see its season pop for the second year in a row.

The same four swimmers combined to shave critical seconds off their seed times in helping a pair of Bobcat relays advance to next weekend’s Iowa High School Girls State Swimming Championships at the Marshalltown YMCA/YWCA, avoiding back-to-back seasons in which MHS was shut out of the fall finale.

Head coach Angie Nelson said her hopes were to have each of the Bobcats’ three relays chop off a lot of time to try to qualify them for state, and the trio took a total of 15 seconds away from their respective seed times. But only the 200-yard medley relay and the 200 freestyle relay qualified, while the 400 freestyle relay came up 1.4 seconds shy of advancing.

The 200 medley relay team of Averie Wittkop, Klaudia Hernandez, Lesli Waltermire and Maeve Janssen took 4.5 seconds off their season-best clocking to touch up with a time of 1 minute, 57.98 seconds on Saturday at their regional meet at Valley High School’s Mark Wagner Pool.

Only the regional champion at each of seven meets across the state earned automatic advancement, so the other 25 spots were filled by the next-best times. Marshalltown’s time was good for 30th out of 32 qualifiers.

The 200 freestyle relay team, with Waltermire leading off for Janssen, Hernandez and Wittkop, took three seconds off their seed time and clocked in at 1:45.58 — the last of 32 state qualifiers.

Waltermire is currently a freshman at GMG and travels to Marshalltown to participate in swimming in the fall.

She’s been swimming for nine years and says she enjoys how she can track her progress and see improvement over the years by the times she’s able to swim. She also said meeting new people and working with great coaches have been motivating factors for her in keeping with the sport.

“Regionals was a good meet for us to swim at because we had a lot of competition,” Waltermire said. “We were able to drop some time in our relays and I think that shows our work has paid off throughout the season.”

With COVID-19 protocols in place, teams were not able to stick around at the pool Saturday to find out if their times would qualify for state.

Waltermire and the rest of the Marshalltown squad didn’t find out until they were all home later that night that the two relays would be advancing to the next round. Nelson sent a message out to the swimmers via the team messaging app to break the good news.

Waltermire described the feeling of finding out she had qualified for state as “super exciting” and that she was happy for her teammates as well.

“It feels good to represent GMG,” Waltermire said. “Our school is really small and so we don’t have many swimmers usually. It feels good to be able to represent them.”

A year after failing to reach the state meet, two relays is as much as Marshalltown could ask for.

“We really wanted those relays to move some serious time and they all three did,” Nelson said. “Overall in the meet today we cut 82 seconds, so I’m not walking out of here disappointed at all.”

Both qualifying Bobcat relays will swim on Saturday at the Marshalltown YMCA/YWCA, as the three relay races are timed finals. The state meet weekend kicks off Friday with the diving finals at 11 a.m. followed by the swimming preliminaries at 5 p.m. Swimming finals start at noon on Saturday.

The state meet, like the regional qualifiers, are closed to spectators. All events will be streamed live online through the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union’s website (ighsau.org).

Marshalltown entered Saturday’s regional ranked 33rd in the state in the 200 medley relay, and a time drop of 4.5 seconds got the Bobcats through by 21-hundredths of a second. In the 200 free relay, MHS stood 31st and shaved another three seconds off its seed time, which proved to be just enough to qualify for the 32nd and final spot at state.

“This meet felt so much different than regionals from the past and it was a hard atmosphere to be excited and in the meet, so to be able to walk away with 82 seconds cut in a meet that never really felt that same electricity that you would normally have in a regional meet is pretty phenomenal,” Nelson said. “I’m really excited for these girls because I think most of them walk away from here and say ‘I could do better’ and you just hope if that’s the case they say ‘I’m going to do this, this and this’ and go out and do it.

“This is a great group of girls, they get along really well, they swim well together, we’ve had very little girl drama which is amazing and awesome, and I think they’ve held their stuff together really well in a really strange year.”

The best individual finish from the regional meet was Waltermire in the 50 freestyle, as she placed fifth in 25.84 — 2-hundredths of a second faster than her seeding and 6-hundredths of a second shy of the last qualifying time for state (25.24).

“There’s a lot of excitement (for the state meet),” Waltermire said. I’m really nervous though, but I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m just really excited for it.”