The Muscatine swim team has five different athletes that qualified for state in various events. Specifically, the two relays that the Muskies have qualified for consist of some combination of sophomores, juniors, and seniors. In a sense, those relays represent the passing of the Muskie swim team torch in real time.
But the seniors have some unfinished business they’d like to take care of before leaving the team in the hands of the underclassmen. At the state meet on Saturday at the University of Iowa’s Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, they’ll get that opportunity.
Wade Whiteside leads the way, as the senior qualified in four different events, including two individual events (the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 butterfly), as well as two relays (the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
“I’ve always wanted to go to state in individual and I did that this year so it means a lot," Whiteside said. "It’s all been focusing on in practice, it’s pretty cool, and it’s nice to be with these guys."
That drive in practice hasn’t gone unnoticed by the sophomore and juniors, either.
“They really show that hard work really does pay off," said junior Daylon Shelangoski, who qualified in the 100 butterfly and is a member of both relay teams. "They’re really good role models, they always try to lead the way, show what’s right. I’ll definitely try to take after them quite a bit.”
Teammate Ryan Boeding, who will compete in the 50-yard freestyle and the relays with Whiteside and Shelangoski, agreed with the sentiment.
“These guys have probably been our biggest motivators this year to keep us practicing hard and keep us going," Boeding said. "Next year I hope we can be as good and follow in their footsteps.”
Furthermore, the success of the Muskie seniors goes beyond the pool.
“The seniors are all great students," coach Judd Anderson said. "They’re all qualified for a national, All-American academic award.”
And the appreciation for the seniors has been reciprocated to the underclassmen.
“We see the underclassmen coming up behind us and it looks really promising,” senior Will Zillig said.
Zillig is also a member of the 200 free relay team.
So Carson Orr, who is part of the 400 free relay team, feels the underclassmen on the Muskie squad to experience the state meet will provide invaluable experience.
“I think it just means a lot for the underclassmen to see that if you work hard in practice you have the ability to make it to state,” Orr said.
This group's bond goes deeper than names on a roster or their matching bleach-blonde hairdos.
Instead of the nerves or tension that might come with getting ready for the bright lights of the state tournament, the Muskie swimmers have no problem keeping each other loose. But even when they're joking around, their goals are at the forefront.
"I'll try to get some muscles in (the future) for Wade," Shelangoski said before glancing at the senior and cracking a smile.
Though the future looks bright for the program, the team is focused on the task in front of them. And for a few hours at the state meet, the present and future of the program hope to shine.