By ANDY HEINTZ
Courier Sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa girls swim team picked up a thrilling 86-83 victory in see-saw dual against Keokuk on Senior Night at The Beach Ottumwa.
"It's special because we know we have the support of the Bulldogs," senior Whitney Dostal said. "Having a win in our last meet is always a good memory to have."
"I think it's important because we get to carry that pride with us for the rest of our lives," senior Shayla Wolver said.
With the win, the Bulldogs finished their dual meets on a three-meet winning streak in front of an appreciative hometown crowd. The 200 medley team of Marissa Rupalo, Caroline Caroline, Claire Carlson and Ellen Carlson got the meet started on a positive note for Ottumwa by taking first with a season-best time of 2:02.95.
"The biggest suprise of the night came in the medley relay," Ottumwa swim coach Steph Mishler said. "Those girls came out and swam the best medley that they have all year by four and a half seconds. So they really set the tone out of that gate that, 'hey, we're really here to race.'"
Bulldog Caroline Carlson took the lead on the second leg of the race, passing the Chiefs' Mercedes Hawkins. Claire Carlson expanded the Bulldogs lead during the third leg of the relay. Ellen Carlson closed the race out for Ottumwa as the exuberant crowd that gurgled like a mountain stream that didn't subside until the relay was completed.
From that point on, the meet went back and forth with the two teams exchanging leads in four of the last five races.
"We knew going in that we would have to fight for every point that we could get," Mishler said.
Later in the dual, Ellen Carlson gave the Bulldogs a huge boost by taking first in the 50 freestyle with a time of 26.92. In addition, Caroline Carlson won the 100 Breastroke by a landslide, blowing away her closest competition by six seconds with 1:18.11. Plus, Caroline Carlson also garnered second in the 200 Individual Medley with 2:44.41 and Ellen Carlson corralled second place in the 100 freestyle with 59.26.
The Bulldogs 200 Freestyle relay team of Claire Carlson, Hannah Wolver, Marissa Rupalo and Ellen Carlson cruised to a comfortable first place finish with 1:53.91, which was nearly 12 seconds better than their nearest competitor.
For Ottumwa's seniors — Wolver, Dostal, Sydney Ocker, Ronja Siebert, Maranda Rupalo — it was a great final exit.
"A couple of these swimmers were here the first we had swimming back here," Mishler said. "This is really the first group that went through so I can't even put into words how much they mean to this program and to turning this program around. It's very fitting for them to go out with a win."
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