MUSCATINE — Daylon Shelangoski wasn’t expecting much last Saturday.
The Muscatine freshman swimmer didn’t feel particularly strong heading into a district meet at Clinton, and, it being his first season as a high school competitor, he had no grandiose visions of what he could achieve.
Yet, it’s Shelangoski who leads a group of five Muskie swimmers into Saturday’s state swimming meet at the Marshalltown YMCA.
He’ll swim in four of the five events Muscatine will compete in, joining juniors Isaac Heth, John Wieskamp and Kyle Schoer and sophomore Wade Whiteside as the Muskies state representatives.
“Honestly, I surprised myself,” Shelangoski said. “I really didn’t expect to be coming in here and qualifying for state in any events, really. I just worked my butt off, really, and tried to improve as much as possible."
Shelangoski’s success this season wasn’t completely unexpected, at least for Muscatine boys swimming coach Judd Anderson.
“He was the one kid that had some focus when he came in to the program,” Anderson said. “… He’s had that motivation. Not a total surprise he’s doing this. He had a little success at the Y level in the winter swim."
Shelangoski and Heth will each swim in at least one individual event in Marshalltown, with Shelangoski qualifying to compete in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly. He and Heth are also members of the Muskies’ state-qualifying 200 free and 400 free relays.
The lone Muskie district title winner, Shelangoski has the team's top qualifying times. He qualified ninth in the 100 fly after winning the event in Clinton in 52.61 seconds and 12th in the 200 IM after swimming it in 2 minutes, 0.24 seconds, both of which were personal-best times.
“That’s probably been the best meet I’ve ever swam in my life,” Shelangoski said. “I dropped a lot of time. I didn’t feel really particularly great coming into the meet. I thought I was going to gain time rather than drop time. When I saw the times after both my races, I felt great.”
While the Muskies will have no seniors competing Saturday, they do have some experience in Heth, who was the lone state qualifier last season, and Wieskamp.
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Heth, who was 22nd in the 200 freestyle last season at state in 1:49, returns to swim in the same event Saturday, in which he qualified 20th in 1:47.15.
After soaking in an environment last season he described as “insane,” Heth has a better idea what to expect this time around.
“It’s the second event, so it’s kind of nice that I’ll be able to get it over and done with and start to prepare for the relays,” Heth said. “I’m really excited for the 200 free again this year. I’m hoping to drop some time, maybe move up a few places and improve my standing.”
Wieskamp, meanwhile, returns to the state meet after swimming on the 400 free relay as a freshman in 2015 along with Alex Walton, Hunter Peterson and Ian Hilbrant. He'll swim on both relays.
The 400 free relay, which also includes Whiteside, qualified 15th in 3:18.88, which was seven seconds better than the group’s previous best time. Schoer and the 200 free relay qualified 18th in 1:30.87, two seconds better than its PR.
What stands out about the two relays is that all four splits were evenly distributed at the district meet. That could set the Muskies up to improve even further at state.
“With our times being so close, it pushes us,” Wieskamp said. “We have a friendly competition going with all of us. We push each other to do better, we push to swim faster and stronger and more technically and just get better and better.”
Regardless of how Saturday pans out, the meet provides an opportunity.
All five state qualifiers return next season, potentially setting up the Muskies for even more success next season and beyond.
“The best thing that would come about with this is to light the fire in some of these guys about where they want to be a year from now and to wet their whistle, so to speak,” Anderson said, “and that to carry over to some of our other kids that (say), ‘They can do it, I can do it, too.’”