CLINTON — The last few weeks have been a bit challenging for the Pleasant Valley girls swimming team.
In early October, the Spartans lost three state qualifying swimmers in senior Ali Staver, her sister sophomore Libby Staver and fellow sophomore Christy Bishop. According to PV head coach David Kissack, the three swimmers left the team.
But instead of letting something like that send the team into a spiral, the Spartans had others step up and that was apparent Saturday afternoon at the regional swimming meet at the Clinton High School Aquatic Center.
Pleasant Valley qualified for the state meet in eight of 12 events and rolled up 458 team points to claim the regional championship. Muscatine finished second (332.5) on the back of strong performances from Sarah Schemmel and Taylor Beadle. Davenport Central was fifth with 262.5 points.
Pleasant Valley junior Aviana Zahara grabbed one of the two individual wins for the Spartans, claiming the 100 backstroke (56.80) and she led off the winning 200 medley relay team (1:48.25) with teammates Emily Goodman, Perapa Chotiprasidhi and Lauren Groenenboom. Claire Park was the other winner for the Spartans as she won the diving competition (469.5 points).
Having depth and qualifying multiple entrants in diving, the 50 freestyle, the 100 backstroke and the 500 freestyle helped rack up points for PV.
Zahara said when the Spartans first learned they had lost the Staver sisters and Bishop, it was a challenge mentally.
"It was a little bit difficult at first," she said. "But once we knew certain people were gone, we knew we had to come together as a team and unite."
Although the missing trio are not in the pool with the Spartans, Zahara said they have backed the team the entire time. Zahara said all three were in attendance Saturday.
"They've still been really supportive of us," she said. "They've been at meets and cheering us on and just happy for us. They didn't just walk away from us, they've been supporting us the whole time."
In addition to her win and the medley relay, Zahara qualified in the 50 freestyle with a second-place finish and led off the qualifying 400 relay. She was joined on that relay team by same group from the medley.
Chotiprasidhi qualified in the 50 freestyle (24.65) by taking third and she also made it in the 100 backstroke (59.03) with a second-place finish. Goodman advanced in the 500 freestyle (5:19.11) and 100 breaststroke (1:07.73).
Lauren Nelson (5:20.96) punched her ticket to state in the 500 freestyle as did freshman Jordan Neymeyer who took fourth in the 200 IM with a time of 2:16.32. Diver Trinity Shi also made it for the Spartans, taking third with 370.65 points.
Kissack said he was proud of every single girl and didn't want to leave anybody out when talking about what they meant to the effort. However, he did point out the leadership from the seniors on the team and what that has meant. Park and fellow diver Hannah Humes along with swimmers Mallory Obenauf and Emily Bruinsma were the seniors participating at the regional meet.
"They all showed a lot of leadership getting the girls ready for today," Kissack said. "Every one of them swam so well. This was not a result of a few kids doing well. This was everyone doing well."
Davenport Central senior Meredith Cox is closing her career on a high note as Cox won the 100 butterfly, qualified in the 100 backstroke and was a part of the state-qualifying relay teams in the 200 medley and 200 freestyle. Blue Devils freshman Abbey Klosterman claimed the title in the 100 breaststroke.
Davenport West will be sending its 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams to Marshalltown.
As for Pleasant Valley's chances at the state meet, it might be difficult to replicate the performances of the past four seasons. PV has three runner-up finishes and one state title in that span.
Zahara said the team will do the best it can.
"We've had a lot happen this season and all the girls pulled together and pulled through. They had great attitude the whole time and they deserve this," Zahara said. "I am really proud of what we've accomplished."
The Bettendorf girls swimming team advanced to state in 10 of the 12 events and won the regional championship at the Linn-Mar aquatic center with 430 team points, easily outpacing second-place Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
The Bulldogs won all three relay events with efforts from Emily Van De Wiele, Sage Ohlenshelen, Hena Hassan, Megan Schade, Arianna Ottavianelli, Megan Greenley and Alexis Beine.
Ottavianelli had the only individual win for Bettendorf (200 individual medley) although she also qualified in the 100 breaststroke. Van De Wiele (200 freestyle), Hassan (50 freestyle) and Beine (100 breaststroke) had runner-up finishes for the Bulldogs.
Other events that Bettendorf will have representation at state include the 200 IM (Beine, Ohlenshelen), the 50 freestyle (Greenley), the 100 butterfly (Schade, Anna Wall), the 100 freestyle (Greenley, Hassan), the backstroke (Van De Wiele, Schade) and the breaststroke (Ohlenshelen).