The Ottumwa Courier

February 9, 2013

Gullion looks to make splash at state

Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA — Grant Gullion has been on quite a roll lately, and now he’s being amply rewarded for his accomplishments.

Today, Gullion will be the sole representative of the Ottumwa Bulldogs to swim at the 2013 Iowa State Boys Swim Meet at the Marshalltown YMCA. He will swim in the 100 butterfly; a race where he’s enjoyed a a considerable degree of success this season.

The junior Bulldog qualified for state by taking third place in the 100 butterfly Saturday at the district meet in Iowa City with a season-best time of 55.98. Coincidentally, Gullion’s state qualifying time coalesced with his season-long goal to crack 56 seconds.

“He has a very strong work ethic and has swam for a long time,” Ottumwa coach Heidi Owens said. “He has a really good kick — the butterfly is a hard stroke and he just has the rhythm and the technique to do it.”

Although the butterfly is where he’s enjoyed  the most success, Gullion wasn’t always fond of the race.

“To be honest I really haven’t liked it until this year,” he said. “This year I’d swam it enough that it had gotten a little easier and I started to enjoy it a lot more; and by the end of the season I was really kind of enjoying it.”

Gullion heads to state with the 23rd-best district time of those competing in the 100 fly. The top time of the event — which is owned by R.J. Hemmingsen of Council Bluffs Lewis Central — is 50.99, just over five seconds better than Gullion’s 55.98. Yet, Gullion has taken a philosophical approach to the meet.

“I’m pretty calm because I think the hardest part is just getting there,” he said. “Once you’re there, you can’t really do much wrong. You did the hardest part getting there.”

Aside from qualifying for state, Gullion’s other signature accomplishment this season was when he took first in the butterfly at the CIML Metro Conference Championship with 57.01. In addition, Gullion was one of two Bulldogs — the other was Adam Mueller — to finish first in an individual swim during Ottumwa’s dual with an imposing Des Moines Roosevelt swim team — thick with quality swimmers on Senior Night at The Beach Ottumwa. In a meet where — despite a gallant effort by a big-hearted Ottumwa team — the Roughriders consistently managed to stay a few strokes ahead of the Bulldogs, Gullion was an exception to the norm. He struck a blow against the swimming Goliath by capturing first in the fly with 57.50. The race marked the first time Gullion had cracked 58 seconds all season and was an omen of future successes to come.

In Ottumwa’s next meet at Grinnell, he did himself one better by finishing the butterfly in 56.64. Other than his opening meet time of 1:07.18 — a higher than usual time that can be chocked up to it being a meter pool instead of a yard pool (although he did finish first in the race) — Gullion finished all of his butterfly races in less than a minute. Gullion’s fly time hovered between 58 and 59 seconds for most of the season, but he really started to cut his time in his final four swims, culminating with his 55.98 time at districts.

“I don’t have the most strength so what I really got better on was the start and the turns,” Gullion said. “So I think that’s what really helped me cut the most time and as the season went along I got a little stronger, so that helped.”

Other notable accomplishments by Gullion include being Ottumwa’s only swimmer to finish in the top 10 at the Grayhound Invitational — which included 13 other teams — and being one of two Bulldogs (the other was Michael Etnyre) to finish in the top 10 of an individual swim at the Mercer Invitational. Gullion’s success in the butterfly has helped Ottumwa surpass the  accomplishments of its previous season — Ottumwa won three meets and tied one this season, while it only won one meet the season before.

Not only has Gullion shined in the butterfly race, he also has played a pivotal role in the success of the Bulldogs’ relay teams; a source of strength for Ottumwa this season. Sometimes Gullion would compete in the 200 medley relay and the 200 and 400 free relays all in the same meet. Yet the 100 butterfly is his specialy and Saturday he will test his mettle against the best of the best.