IOWA CITY — Caleb Aman has been sick the past couple of weeks.
Before he jumped in the pool for the 200-yard individual medley at Saturday’s Iowa boys state swim meet, the Bettendorf senior was throwing up.
“I don’t like to make excuses because it can happen to anyone,” Aman said. “I felt pretty bad, but honestly, when you throw up, it makes you feel a little bit better.”
It didn’t deter Aman from defending his state championship at the University of Iowa’s Campus Recreation & Wellness Center.
The Wisconsin signee garnered the lead in the opening 50 of the backstroke and cruised to the championship in 1 minute, 50.49 seconds — nearly a three-second victory.
Aman later anchored his team to a title in the 200 freestyle relay and finished second in the 100 backstroke to power Bettendorf to a second consecutive third-place team finish at state.
“Caleb still is not healthy, but that’s all him manning up,” Bettendorf coach Mike Ahrens said. “He’s a gamer.
“We put a lot of pressure on him this week to lead by example, whether he was 80 or 100 percent, and he did just that. He is a big reason why we had our success today.”
Ames squeaked past West Des Moines Valley by a point, 221-220, for the championship. It was the closest team race since 1957.
Bettendorf and Ankeny tied for third with 166.5 points.
There was a coin flip between the schools afterward to determine which program took the trophy home. Bettendorf lost the flip but will receive a trophy from the Iowa High School Athletic Association in the coming month.
Besides Aman’s repeat in the IM, the highlight for the Bulldogs came in the 200 free relay.
The quartet of Charlie Bunn, Luke Nickles, Andrew Ottavianelli and Aman broke a school record that stood for more than 20 years. The winning time of 1:24.82 was good for automatic All-American status.
Ottavianelli and Aman recorded sub-21-second splits.
“It is awesome to say our names will be up there for a long time with that record, hopefully,” Ottavianelli said. “It is fun to make a legacy at your school.
“We were pretty confident coming in. We believed and trusted in each other, our training and our coaches. All we did was hit the water and go all out for 20-some seconds.”
By the time Aman leaped in for the anchor leg, the Bulldogs had built a lead. He finished it off with a 20.39 split.
“As long as I’ve been at Bettendorf, I’ve never swam the 200 free relay,” Aman said. “We took a leap this year and did it. Charlie, Luke and Andrew showed up and made it happen.
“It is really impressive and happy we were able to do that.”
Bunn had two other podium finishes, snatching third in the 100 freestyle (46.60) and sixth in the 200 free (1:42.85). Ottavianelli tied for fifth in the 50 free (21.56) and anchored the fifth place medley relay that included Aman, Ben Ketelaar and Ben Luppen.
“Our sprinting group looks solid for next year,” Ahrens said. “We’ve just got to build some numbers up.”
Pleasant Valley finished eighth with 122 points. The Spartans’ Kevin Burke broke two of his own school records and had four top-six finishes.
Burke was second in the 50 free (21.11), fifth in the 100 backstroke (51.66) and swam on two sixth-place relays — 200 medley and 400 free.
This is the first high school season Burke has concentrated on the 50 free.
“It is just who gets back to the wall the fastest,” he said. “My start was really good, and the turn was pretty good, too. I was pretty happy with that race. It is a fun race.”
Burke has another season to reach the top of the podium.
“It definitely motivates me to come back and work hard throughout the offseason,” he said. “I’ll be ready to go next year.”
Nate Martell, Jacob McCredie and Nathan McKay joined Burke on the sixth place 200 medley that finished in 1:35.06.
McKay was seventh in the 100 free (47.13) while William Nash and McCredie took eighth in the 200 IM (1:58.30) and 100 breaststroke (59.93), respectively.
After never having a state podium finish in his first three years, McKay had three Saturday.
“Back in my freshman year, I never dreamed I would be able to get in the top eight at state,” McKay said. “To get that on my own is really cool.”
Davenport Central scored 23.5 points. Seth Land tied for 10th in the 50 free (21.81), and Andrew Shie was 10th in the 100 free (47.58).
Aman was in the second of three heats for his final swim, the 100 backstroke. Even so, he clocked in at 50.81 to finish runner-up behind Dowling Catholic’s Nick Chase (49.48).
“I don’t even think on my best day I could beat that time,” Aman said. “That was a very good swim by him.
In his three years with the Bulldogs, Aman accumulated five state titles, three seconds and two thirds.
“It is a testament to Bettendorf and its athletic program,” he said. “They’ve helped make an excellent swimmer of me and pushed me to my longest endeavors. I’m really excited for the next four years of college swimming and how Bettendorf has been preparing me for that.”