MUSCATINE — Isaac Heth got a taste last season, but he wants more.
The same could be said for the Muscatine junior swimmer’s teammates.
Muscatine finished second at the boys swimming district meet last February in Iowa City, but it only sent one swimmer, Heth, to compete in one event at last season’s state swimming meet in Marshalltown.
Heth headlines a group of 40 swimmers out this season, one that believes it put in the work to see the success they believe they can achieve.
“I was really happy, of course, that I made it to state, but I want to get better from there,” Heth said. “It was exciting to see that progress, and I just took it as a little drive to push a little more this summer because I don’t want to be in that same position this year. I want to be a little more comfortable in my positioning, and I want to just perform better than last year.”
Heth, Scott Schafer, Eli Meeker, John Wieskamp, Wade Whiteside, Kyle Schoer, Gabe Bender, Carson Orr and Drew Wester are among the Muskie swimmers who return after getting regular varsity swims last season.
There are key pieces to replace, most notably James Wood and Ian Hilbrant, but there is a belief that Muscatine can not only improve upon its district placing but send more swimmers to the state meet.
“We got a lot of depth this year, I think we showed that last year,” said Meeker, a senior. “We did really well in the district meet. I think we can return and do well this year. I know a lot of the other schools retired a lot of varsity swimmers, where we are — (our swimmers) moved up a year, hit the weight room hard and I think we’re going to do really well.”
Muscatine coach Judd Anderson is looking for that group of returners to continue to progress, which is what Heth has done after swimming for the first time as a freshman two seasons ago.
But Anderson also wants four-year guys like Schafer and Meeker to take leadership roles, though Meeker was quick to point out that the junior class, with Heth and Wieskamp, a state participant as a freshman, are just as experienced.
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“Everybody’s stepped up and taken their roles as needed as people have left. That’s how it’s happened ever year,” Schafer said. “We’re all kind of stepping up and making sure everyone knows what they need to do, that they need to work hard throughout the year so we can all achieve our goals.”
The Muskies will need to find swimmers to fill in the lineup in certain disciplines. While they’re deep in the breaststroke with five guys positioned to compete in the event, they don’t have much depth in the butterfly or backstroke.
Meeker has worked to help fill one of those voids, taking over for Wood in the backstroke after Wood came .05 seconds away from a state berth last season.
“I worked all summer on it,” Meeker said. “Jimmy was a really good backstroker, but he was really our only good backstroker. This year I’m trying to beat his times, if not equal them.”
The Davenport West Relays on Dec. 3, the Muskies’ second competition of the season, could give them an idea where they’re at.
“Our first test is going to the West Relays,” Meeker said. “If we can finish in the top five there, that sets a good bar for us.”
Where they go from there will depend on how well they come together.
Like Heth, who was driven to continue swimming club and getting better after finishing 22nd in the 200 freestyle at the state meet, the Muskies believe the work has been put in. Now they just want to see the results.
“I’d like to see our team just perform well, that’s a goal,” Heth said. “And (by) perform well, I mean we have some presence at districts maybe, get a few individuals to state, some relays to state. I feel like that’d be really awesome. I just want to have a fun season as well.”