Coming into the swimming & diving season, the Muscatine Muskies were pretty confident in the quality of the team’s underclassmen to go with their returning state-qualifiers.
That group of freshmen and sophomores has not disappointed this season.
On Tuesday night, Muscatine got a look at another freshman phenom in Davenport Central’s Hannah Cousins, who already has set school records for the Blue Devils.
Cousins won two individual events and swam on a winning relay and a runner-up relay group, depth proved the deciding factor as the Muskies won the dual 102-81.
“Everyone was super hyped up the entire meet, we were all supporting each other and cheering each other on,” said Muscatine junior Eve Millage. “The races were really fun and competitive, I really enjoyed this meet, it was one of my favorites so far this year.”
Cousins, the Blue Devil freshman, was the final leg of the Central 400 freestyle realy, but couldn’t make up the difference after Abby Lear’s second leg put the Muskies out front for good. Lear’s pace after taking over for Millage was a shade under two seconds better than Central senior Page Pearson’s.
That was also identical to the margin of victory for Muscatine. Juniors Lear and Millage teamed up with freshmen Madeline Fisher and Hadley Hilbrant to swim a winning time of 3:52.75, beating the Blue Devils’ 3:54.19 in the final event of the evening at Carver pool in Muscatine High School.
“(Our underclassmen) have been a good addition to our team,” said Lear. “We all get along really well. Tonight especially, we had really good team positivity. We’ve had a lot of good swimmers come up, and we’re all working for a better outcome.”
To start the proceedings, Muscatine finished first and second in the diving competition. Senior Lexi Hirt outscored senior teammate Morgan Galloway 268.90 to 231.80. Central’s Chase Lawson (162.15) finished third.
Aside from the 400 free relay, Lear won the 50 freestyle in 25.51 and Hilbrant took second in 26.68.
Millage was about even with Central senior Liz Weber with two laps to go in the 500 freestyle, but Millage’s strong finish led to her to a convincing win in 5:42.75. Weber stopped the clock at 5:50.19.
“I just try to do my best and keep up with who I’m racing against,” Millage said. “But really I just try to race against myself and do the best I can for myself … I can see (when another swimmer is close) and I push myself to keep up with them or, if I can, push even harder to pass them.”
Freshman Kaelen Tjebkes came in third at 6:08.02.
Weber also gave Madeline Fisher some stiff competition in the 200 freestyle only to come up short there as well. Fisher’s 2:05.39 barely beat the Central swimmer’s 2:05.71 while Millage (2:10.35) snuck in for third.
The Muskie 200 free relay team of Millage, Lear, Fisher and junior Ellie Storr rounded out the Muscatine winners, clocking 1:48.61 to beat Central’s top team (1:51.05).
Jillian Hilbrant and Hadley Hilbrant competed with and against each other in several races, and took second with Storr and freshman Sofia Moench in the 200 medley relay (2:08.78), behind Central’s winning time of 1:59.7.
Central’s 200 medley relay was led off by Cousins, who also won the 100 freestyle (53.52) and the 100 backstroke (50.88). Lear’s 56.21 was second in the 100 freestyle and Hadley Hilbrant’s 1:05.17 placed second in the 100 backstroke.
Storr also delivered a second-place finish in the 200 medley at 2:30.33 and a third-place in the 100 breaststroke (1:19.47).
Junior Aubrey Sneddon was the top Muskie finisher in the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:16.81.
“This meet was a good step,” Muscatine coach Judd Anderson said. “Maybe this showed the kids how good this can get. We knew (Central) would be tough. It was fun racing tonight. They were a good matchup, times were close, you couldn’t ask for any better.”
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