Who won? Who lost?
Who cares? That was fun!
Everyone in attendance at the Beach Ottumwa Thursday night had something to cheer about during a thrilling CIML Metro dual between the Des Moines Lincoln and Ottumwa boys swimming teams. Both fan bases came to their feet with reason to celebrate right down to the final race of the night.
Lincoln fans cheered first, as Matthew Friend came home first to clinch a winning 400 free relay that seemed to give the Railsplitters a come-from-behind win. Then, suddenly, Ottumwa fans came to their feet as junior Michael Wagner made an incredible final turn to start a comeback effort of his own.
Wagner rallied from behind on the final lap of the final race to steal third place away for the Bulldogs, giving Ottumwa a much needed two points. Those points left both swimmers, coaches and fans eagerly awaiting the announcement of the final team score.
Final score: 84-84. Drive home safely.
“I don’t know if people know that a swimming meet can be that exciting,” Ottumwa boys head swimming coach Heidi Owens said. “It was an exciting, awesome way to end the meet.”
No swimmer received more praise by teammates and fans then Wagner, who anchored Ottumwa’s second 400 relay team. With the Bulldogs nursing a 78-76 edge heading into final race, all fans focused on the race for the win between the Railsplitter and Bulldogs top teams.
With the meet victory on the line, Lincoln swam out to a three-second lead and held on as Friend held off Ottumwa senior Adam Mueller by 1.08 seconds. The win seemed to solidify a team win for Lincoln.
Chase Shumaker seemed poised to bring home that win as the Railsplitters’ other anchor swimmer opened a nearly five-second lead over Wagner heading into the final lap.
“My teammates were really encouraging me heading into that final race,” Wagner said. “Justin (Vonderhaar) came up to me and told me that my finish was going to be pretty important.”
Wagner gradually closed the gap, but still trailed when he and Shumacker hit the wall for the final time. That’s where Wagner took advantage, making a huge kick to put himself into the lead and on the way to an incredible 57.79-second final 50 meters.
“I’ve been working on that kick a lot in practice,” Wagner said. “It’s pretty hard to hear underwater, but when I made that turn for home and heard the crowd react, it was a pretty amazing feeling.”
The final lap by Wagner capped a comeback effort for Ottumwa, as Lincoln scored seven wins in a row heading into the final three varsity races. The Bulldogs stayed close, however, trailing just 63-59 as Ottumwa’s new-found depth paid big dividends on Thursday.
“Guys have told me that our problem in the past hasn’t been winning races, it’s been scoring those points for second and third-place finishes,” Alex Christensen said. “It’s not always about winning. You’ve got to be able to score those points with top finishes to win meets.”
“I think that’s something a lot of kids don’t always realize,” Owens added. “No matter where you’re swimming at in the meet, you can play a big role in how the team does.”
Christensen was at the center of rallying Ottumwa back. The sophomore had a big finish in the 100 breaststroke, beating Lincoln’s Shumaker by over four seconds with a personal-best time of 1:12.97 to give Ottumwa a late lead.
“That’s definitely my best event and I took three seconds off my previous best time,” Christensen said. “I’m excited to keep trying to knock a few more seconds off as the season goes along.”
Junior Caleb Copple was at the forefront of putting Ottumwa ahead late. Copple and senior teammate Adam Mueller came home with a one-two finish in the 100 backstroke to put the Bulldogs on top 71-67 with two races left.
“Adam and I have been talking about getting first and second in that race for awhile now,” Copple said. “It’s great to have that number advantage this year. We can definitely win some more duals.”
For now, Ottumwa (1-1-1, 0-0-1) finds itself in a much better place as a program heading into their busiest week yet this season. The Bulldogs swim at the Mercer Aquatic Center in the Iowa City Invitational Saturday before heading to Burlington for a double dual next Tuesday and hosting CIML Metro rival Des Moines East on Thursday.
“We’re definitely more confident and more excited then we were at this time last year,” Owens said.
Des Moines Lincoln-Ottumwa Boys Swimming Dual
Team Scores — Ottumwa 84, Des Moines Lincoln 84
200 Medley Relay — 1. Ottumwa (Adam Mueller, Alex Christensen, Grant Gullion, Riley Hammel) 1:51.36, 2. Ottumwa (Caleb Copple, Nick Moreland, Logan Angstead, Nathan Burkman) 1:56.18.
200 Freestyle — 1. Matthew Friend (DML) 1:52.99, 2. Michael Etnyre (O) 1:57.29, 3. Michael Wagner (O) 2:21.08, 5. Trent Taglauer (O) 2:21.28.
200 Individual Medley — 1. Mitchell Friend (DML) 2:21.1, 2. Angstead (O) 2:27.53, 3. Copple (O) 2:29.32, 4. Christensen (O) 2:40.16.
50 Freestyle — T1. Carter Worth (DML) 24.07, T1. Curtis Knapp (DML) 24.07, 3. Hammel (O) 25.06, 4. Langland (O) 26.82, 6. Coltt Lavelle (O) 27.7.
100 Butterfly — 1. Mi. Friend (DML) 57.54, 2. Gullion (O) 58.07, 4. Riley (O) 1:12.03.
100 Freestyle — 1. Ma. Friend (DML) 51.41, 2. Etnyre (O) 52.17, 4. Hammel (O) 55.81, 6. Burkman (O) 1:03.15.
500 Freestyle — 1. Knapp (DML) 5:43.58, 2. Wagner (O) 6:31.94, 3. Taglauer (O) 6:34.91, 6. N. Maughan (O) 7:16.2.
200 Free Relay — 1. Des Moines Lincoln (Knapp, Mi. Friend, Worth, Ma. Friend) 1:35.27, 2. Ottumwa (Etnyre, Gullion, Hammel, Mueller) 1:35.9, 3. Ottumwa (Copple, Burkman, Lavelle, Angstead) 1:45.16.
100 Backstroke — 1. Copple (O) 1:03.73, 2. Mueller (O) 1:04.44, 4. Angstead (O) 1:12.35, 6. Michael Bastron (O) 1:33.78.
100 Breaststroke — 1. Christensen (O) 1:12.97, 5. Langland (O) 1:22.78.
400 Free Relay — 1. Des Moines Lincoln (Knapp, Abraham Contreras, Tom Chidley, Ma. Friend) 3:41.74, 2. Ottumwa (Gullion, Burkman, Etnyre, Mueller) 3:42.82, 3. Ottumwa (James Kyle, C. Maughan, N. Maughan, Micheal Wagner) 4:17.76.
Who won? Who lost?
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