CLINTON, Iowa — The grand prize and team hardware are handed out next weekend in Iowa City.
But after having its rival halt its three-year reign at the district meet last February, the Bettendorf boys swimming program was determined to get the banner back in its possession.
It did so Saturday by the slimmest of margins.
Sophomore Charlie Bunn accounted for three wins and Bettendorf's depth in the 500 freestyle pushed them past Pleasant Valley, 417-415, in the eight-team district meet at the Clinton Aquatic Center.
"This is pretty big," Bunn said. "They got us last year, so hopefully we can restart the streak again."
Conference and district titles often get overshadowed by what transpires at the state meet.
Still, Bettendorf coach Mike Ahrens — recently named the national coach of the year for girls swimming by the NFHS Coaches Association — said it is a major accomplishment for his program.
"It means a lot to our kids coming through our program and the little kids who come in our pool and see that banner," Ahrens said. "We downplay it a little bit, but internally if you asked everyone one of our kids, they're extremely proud to be conference and district champions."
Bunn collected victories in the 100 freestyle (47.12 seconds) and 200 free (1:44.33) along with swimming the opening leg on the triumphant 200 free relay that set a pool record in 1:27.41.
In fact, Bunn's split of 21.37 was a new pool mark.
"To know I can swim my best times this week and wasn't fully tapered was reassuring," Bunn said. "Hopefully, I can drop some more next week."
Bunn helped secure the team title for the Bulldogs with their runner-up finish to PV in the 400 free relay.
"He's a really big link to our team," senior Caleb Aman said. "He's showing what it means to be a Bulldog."
Luke Nickles, Andrew Ottavianelli and Aman joined Bunn on the 200 free relay. Aman, selected as the district swimmer of the year, also won the 200 individual medley in 1:56.60.
The Bulldogs' depth in the 500 free — Xavier Lee, Bryan Hurd and Noah Zapolski — provided 27 team points to lift them past PV.
Zapolski and Lee dropped approximately 28 seconds from their seed times while Hurd shaved 10-plus seconds.
"We knew on paper, with PV's depth, this was going to be as close as ever," Ahrens said. "Those 500 guys really stood out and helped us."
Ahrens admitted Bettendorf has some work to do between now and next Saturday to get a top-three finish at state.
The Bulldogs qualified for state in 10 of 11 events. They have multiple entries in four events.
"I think a lot of us would have liked to have done better, but we're set really well for state," Aman said. "We'll see what happens next week."
PV's Kevin Burke recorded a maximum four victories.
Besides leading a pool and school record 200 medley relay to victory, he won the 50 freestyle in a personal-best 21.49, beat Aman in the 100 backstroke (52.46) and staved off Bunn in the 400 free relay.
Even though Aman has been battling illness recently, Burke said winning builds confidence for next week.
"He was a state champion (in the 100 back) last year and beating him is pretty big, but I know he's had pneumonia and that hinders your results," Burke said. "I was really happy with all the times we swam today."
Nate Martell, Jacob McCredie and Nathan McKay joined Burke on the 200 medley relay that posted a 1:36.36.
"It was an unforgettable experience," McCredie said. "It takes four people to have great swims. We really brought our best today."
William Nash, McKay, Austin Hedgren and Burke comprised the 400 free relay that clocked in at 3:13.29 — 0.37 seconds ahead of Bettendorf.
McCredie also took the top spot in the 100 breaststroke after Davenport Central's Andrew Shie was disqualified for a false start.
"I trust my training and I've worked hard all season," McCredie said. "With a full taper, I should go faster and hopefully be under a minute next week."
The Spartans will be represented in nine events. The 200 medley relay, Burke (50 free, 100 back) and the 400 free relay are all seeded among the top five.
Central's Seth Land was third in the 50 free (22.13). He, along with Wyatt Land, Will Rolfstad and Shie, took third in the 400 free relay (3:16.74).
The Blue Devils qualified for state in four events.