MUSCATINE — It was a surreal feeling for James Wood.
The Muscatine senior swimmer competed at Carver Swim Center for the final time on Thursday night, anchoring the Muskies’ 400 freestyle relay squad to a come-from-behind win in the final event of the night.
“It’s weird. It’s really weird,” Wood said. “I’ve been swimming in this pool since I was probably 6 years old all the way up through Y swimming. It’s weird to race here for the last time. That’s why I was happy I got to be the last person to race in the 4x100 relay.”
Wood wrapped up his career at Carver in impressive fashion as he helped the Muskies defeat visiting Davenport Central 108-62 in a Mississippi Athletic Conference dual. Besides anchoring the 400 free relay to victory in 3 minutes, 33.94 seconds, he also was a member of the 200 free relay that won in 1:36.37 and earned victories in the 200 free in 1:53.88 and the 500 free in 5:20.81.
“I just had a little more motivation tonight being the last time I was ever going to race in this pool,” Wood said.
Fellow senior Ian Hilbrant — who moved to Muscatine from Naperville, Illinois, two years ago — may not have grown up around the pool at Carver like Wood, but he was still motivated to swim well on senior night.
“This pool is not really a part of me like it would be for Jimmy or Evan [Gerth],” Hilbrant said, “but my mindset going into each race was that this was going to be the last time I’m going to swim this event at this pool, so I might as well make it count.”
Hilbrant was a member of the winning 400 free relay team, and he also won the 100 backstroke in a season-best time of 1:01.20. He also notched a personal-best time of 1:00.86 in the 100 butterfly, taking second place in the event.
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Hilbrant finished just ahead of teammate Eli Meeker in the 100 back. Meeker finished second in a personal-best time of 1:05.86, one of four personal-best times he notched on the night.
“Ian beat me in the back, so I kind of want to beat him next time,” Meeker said. “I thought I had a pretty good night. I felt pretty good.”
In all, the Muskies won seven events Thursday. Isaac Heth was a member of both winning relays, and he also won the 100 free in 51.46 seconds and the 200 individual medley in 2:13.97. Heth edged teammate Scott Schafer by six-tenths of a second to win the 100 free in exciting fashion.
Wood, Hilbrant and seven other Muskie swimmers were honored during the dual.
“Now we have to think about who’s going to take over and be the leaders next year,” Muscatine boys swimming coach Judd Anderson said. “They’ve provided great senior leadership. They’ve been around since 2013 when we had some great success. They’ve worked very hard to keep getting better, and that’s very refreshing.”
The Muskies have one last regular-season tune-up left — at Bettendorf on Jan. 28 — before traveling to Iowa City for districts on Feb. 6.
“We’ve really been putting in the work toward that main goal of getting to state,” Wood said.