The Pleasant Valley High School boys swimmers used an advantage in team depth to cruise past defending district champion Bettendorf in a home dual win on senior night on Jan. 7.
The Spartans, last year’s district runner-up, topped their cross-town rivals 102-68 after each team won six of the 11 events, one of which was a tie.
PV, ranked fourth in the state’s latest power rankings, defeated a Bettendorf team competing in just its second meet of the year due to postponements related to issues from COVID-19.
PV last defeated Bettendorf in a dual meet in 2019, the last season it won the district title.
Despite the disparity in the final score, there were a number of extremely competitive races for first that made for an exciting dual meet. It was also the first time the two teams competed in PV’s renovated pool that was updated from 25 meters to 25 yards.
PV coach Stacey Zapolski expected the depth in her team’s lineup to be a primary key to victory.
“We knew going in that it was going to be our second-, third-, fourth-place finishes, our ‘B’ relays, that were going to make a difference for us,” she said. “We kind of had all those kids fired up to swim fast.”
Zapolski said a talented group of freshmen, headlined by Will Gorman and Owen Chiles, have helped the team significantly on the scoreboard this season and on Thursday night.
Gorman won the 200 free (1:47.14), 500 free (4:55.96) and swam on two of the three relay wins. Chiles had two individual top 3 finishes.
The dual meet began with an exciting tie for first in the 200 medley relay, with Bettendorf (Alex Stone, Brock Ohlensehlen, Carter Anderson, Graham Besser) and PV (Chiles, Gabe Eliasen, Parker Paulson, Eric Hedgren) each clocking a 1:41.65.
PV junior Ryan Vance won the 100 free (49.90), took second in the 200 free, and joined Chiles, Gorman, and Bryan Caraman in a 200 free relay win (1:31.23), also pairing with Caraman, Gorman, and Paulson to take the 400 free relay in 3:19.15 to end the dual.
Vance said Thursday’s performance displayed the kind of work the team has put in all season. Having the freshmen step up has also helped.
“We couldn’t have gotten this win without them,” he said of the freshman class. “And it was great to see the seniors pull out some really great times on senior night.”
Bettendorf’s Stone had a standout night, clocking a 1:57.14 to win the 200 IM. Pending Thursday’s results elsewhere in Iowa, his time could be the best in the state this season. Stone, a junior, won the 100 back (54.42) in addition to leading off the Bulldogs' 200 medley relay tie.
Carter Anderson won the 50 free (22.98) and 100 fly (53.52) for Bettendorf and Ohlensehlen won the 100 breast (1:06.26). Anderson out-tapped Paulson's 53.54 in the 100 fly.
Bettendorf coach Mike Ahrens said it felt awesome to race for the second time in nine weeks of working out and dealing with multiple postponements in the first half of the season. Bettendorf last competed against Cedar Rapids Washington on Dec. 15.
“It’s good to swim against some good competition and race, first and foremost,” he said. “January is going to be full of racing and makeup meets, hopefully.”
Ahrens has high level swimmers at the top of the team lineup, but developing his own team’s depth and ideal lineup is still a work in progress. He said PV and its freshmen newcomers make for an impressive team.
In addition to Stone’s top time in the 200 IM, swimming a 46.14 as anchor in the 400 free relay also stood out to Ahrens. Stone nearly caught PV’s Parker as the Bulldogs clocked a 3:19.62 to take second to the Spartans’ 3:19.15.
“He’s just a stud and the nicest kid in the world; he does anything I ask,” Ahrens said of Stone. “The things he swam tonight aren’t even what he’s going to do at state, he just filled in to get us some points when needed.”
PV’s seniors recognized were James Breen, Jonathan Chiles, Eric Hedgren, Carson Maxwell, and Blake Tyler.
Vance said a performance like this at the season’s midpoint boosts team morale even higher.
“Everybody was really excited,” he said. “This is probably going to go down as one of our favorite meets all across the board.”
Vance did not say what the team’s specific goals are down the road; the opportunity to compete is enough for now in a season altered by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re just thankful that we’ve gotten to swim,” he said, “and we want to keep showing what we’re capable of.”