Swimming District Title Streak Ends

Ben Janssen, Managing Editor

53 may seem like just a number, but to hundreds of students athletes who swam for the Warriors, that number is a legacy. 53 consecutive district titles. Throughout the past 53 years the Wash swim team haven’t lost a single district swim meet, but on February fourth, 2017 the streak ended.

This streak has been a constant, no matter what happened at Wash, the streak stood strong. Throughout the streak there have been 27 State Championships, and 10 State Runner ups. It means so much to so many swimmers and retired head coach, Jim Voss. Voss’ teams never lost a district meet. “The streak shows consistency and strength of the program for so many years, it shows total commitment from the Washington community, coaching staff and athletes,” said Voss.

Current head coach Cruise, has been apart of the Warrior swim program for a long time. Cruise won multiple team state championships as a swimmer, one state title as a head coach, he was a two time individual state champion in both the 100 yard breaststroke and the 200 yard medley relay. This year, Cruise was awarded the Mississippi Valley Conference coach of the year. Another Warrior winning an award was Cameron Kelley ‘17. Kelley was awarded co-district swimmer of the year. “It felt a bit hollow considering we lost the team title but it’s nice to get recognized for what I’ve worked for over the past few years,” said Kelley.

Going into this year’s meet there was something different, the normally favored Warrior swim team was projected to fall to the Linn-Mar Lions by over 60 points, this didn’t stop the Warriors, who swam their hearts out the entire day. The Warriors won seven of the eleven events. This included victories in the 200 Yard Medley Relay (Kaleb Donels ‘18, George Durin ‘18, Zach Kolker ‘19, James Breitbart ‘19), the 200 Yard Freestyle (Cameron Kelley ‘17), the 200 Yard IM (Donels ‘18), the 50 Yard Freestyle (Durin ‘18), the 100 Yard Backstroke (Donels ‘18) and the 400 Yard Freestyle Relay (Durin ‘18, Jeremy Throndson ‘19, Donels ‘18, Kelley ‘17), as well as the top two finishes in the 500 Yard Freestyle (Kelley ‘17 and Throndson ‘19). “To me, the streak had some importance but it didn’t mean everything. I’ve always had the meet after words to worry about so the importance of the district meet never fully occurred to me until I saw what it meant to everyone else. To the majority of the team, the district meet was their state meet. It’s likely the highest level they’d ever compete at so the streak held a special place in their hearts,” said Kelley.

Almost all of the Warriors contributed to the team score, not just those who won their events, including Mitchell Hause ‘19, Tyler Cruise ‘19, Quintin Gay ‘19, Ethan Ford ‘19, Mitchell Dake ‘17, and Nathaniel Burke ‘18. The meet ended with Linn-Mar being declared first with 380 points and Wash second with 373.5, only 6.5 points. There were a couple of positive outcomes from this meet, first, the Warriors will send 10 relays or individuals to the state meet in Marshalltown. Also the Warriors swam far above what was expected of them, and some young swimmers showed tremendous improvement during this meet. “Washington has had tough competition every year and this year is no different, 6.5 points is nothing to hang your head about,” Voss said.

Going into the final race, the 400 yard freestyle relay, the Warriors trailed Linn-Mar by 12. Because of that deficit, the only way the Warriors could win was if Wash won the relay and the number one seeded Lions got sixth or if the Lions got disqualified. Knowing this the four swimmers swam and beat the Lions by .17 seconds, giving the relay team the win, and the team the loss. “Right before the final race, we all looked at the score. Seeing we were down by 12 the only way that we could win is if LM got sixth and we won, or they got disqualified. The odds of either of those happening were super small. We knew going into that race that the streak was nearing its end. We all knew that if we were going to lose that streak, that we weren’t going to lose that final race. Knowing how great of a meet it had been otherwise, we wouldn’t let that one slip. Once that race was over it was a huge mix of emotions where we were extremely upset, but also extremely proud of how well each and every swimmer swam that day. All in all, we’ll be back next year, and we will start a new streak,” said Donels ‘18.

The night after the district meet is very special, it is when the announcements are for who swam fast enough to swim in the state meet. This year seven individuals qualified as well as three relay teams. The swimmers are sophomores, James Breitbart, Ethan Ford, Zach Kolker and Jeremy Throndson, as well as juniors, Kaleb Donels and George Durin and senior Cameron Kelley. The Warrior relays competing are, the 200 Yard Medley Relay, the 200 Yard Freestyle Relay and the 400 Yard Freestyle Relay. “The meet is super intense, it is really loud during the races and the energy is just so high. Also, seeing the Wash fans in the crowd going crazy is a really really cool experience,” said Throndson ‘19.

Ending a long standing streak is tough for and team, but it takes strong leaders to overcome these setbacks. Kelley has been a leader for this team all season, and he stepped up after the loss at districts. Kelley not only offered words of encouragement for his team but also said how proud he was of this team for swimming as hard as they could. The night after the meet, Kelley sent a message to the team, “One last thing before I go to bed, great athletes have been in our position before; a spot where everyone wants you to fail. We have to stay focused and be ready to prove ourselves at state. We’re going to be reminded of this for a while. It’s going to be a tagline in each of the following years but that can’t hold you guys back. Stay focused and get ready for the next one,” Kelley said in group chat.

Voss had some things to say about not only Kelley, but the team, “I have a lot of admiration for Cameron Kelley, he is focused and has a lot of dedication. A lot of what he said was true. They have to remember the name of the program, Warrior swim team, it’s a team not an individual sport. Although you swim individually, it’s a team, that loss is history, start a new streak,” said Voss.

Washington High School students have a lot of things to be proud of, but with or without the streak, the students are proud of the swim team for working as hard as they can to represent Wash as well as they can, and we, the students, thank you for all you have done for this school. “They need to understand people are proud of them, they lived up to the warrior tradition. They need to compete their hardest at state,” said Voss.