Ottumwa swimmers celebrate on Senior Night

Kevin Kretz celebrates after winning the 100-yard freestyle in 48.64 seconds on Tuesday night at Mike McWilliams Pool for the Ottumwa boys swimming team.

OTTUMWA — Kevin Kretz has won a lot of races in his four years swimming for the Ottumwa Bulldogs.

One of his biggest swims this year, however, may have come in a race he didn't win.

Kretz helped preserve Ottumwa's perfect dual record, securing second place for an all-senior 400 free relay team that clinched an 82-78 Senior Night win over Grinnell on Tuesday. Ottumwa added a 101-39 triumph over Oskaloosa during the triangular meet, lifting the Bulldogs to a perfect 10-0 dual record with only one dual remaining in the 2020-21 season.

Ottumwa would clinch that final dual win, taking a victory over Des Moines East on Thursday. The Bulldogs wrap up the dual portion of the season going 11-0, including Tuesday's Senior Night thriller against Grinnell that nearly concluded with a comeback bid by Kretz in the final 100 yards of the final relay race.

"I was really pulling for it. That's the fastest split I've swam so far this season," Kretz said. "Didn't quite get the win, but another 100 yards and I would have had it."

The Bulldog senior nearly erased a seven-second deficit during the final leg of the final race, finishing the final 100-yard leg in 47.87 seconds. Grinnell was able to hold on to win by less than three seconds, preventing Kretz from completing what would have been an amazing rally.

"Kevin, on that first 25 meters, really had me thinking he was going to win it," Ottumwa head boys swimming coach Cherie Langland said. "He just couldn't quite catch him, but Kevin certainly kept swinging."

Kretz also secured wins in the 100 and 200-yard freestyle races, posting a time of 1:49.55 in the 200 free finishing just 3.51 seconds off the pool record time. Kretz celebrated posting a 48.64-second time in the 100-yard freestyle, just 1.42 seconds shy of a pool record, before rallying the Bulldogs for a key 200-yard free relay win passing Alex Smith on the final lap to give Ottumwa the win by less than a second in a time of 1:36.54.

"Apparently, I screamed at the end (of the 100-yard freestyle). I don't remember that part," Kretz said. "I was pretty fired up about that result. I did not have my best race on Saturday at Burlington and ended up taking second place. I ended going a full second faster than I did on Saturday. I'm definitely happy with the way that race went."

For Kretz, the 100-yard freestyle started with a reminder of what Senior Night is all about. For the final time in a dual at Mike McWilliams Pool, Kretz and senior teammate Maxwell Thomason lined up next to each other.

"I reminded him this will be our last race against each other in a dual as high school swimmers. It was a moment we got to share up there on the starting blocks," Kretz said. "I'm thankful to be in the position we're in. I'm thankful we get to compete, especially considering the circumstances. It was awesome from start to finish."

Rece Budde picked up a key finish for the Bulldogs in the 100-yard breaststroke, initially finishing second to teammate Nathan Calhoun in 1:13.67. Calhoun, however, was disqualified after his OHS swimming cap came off during race revealing Calhoun's normal Ottumwa Hurricane cap underneath.

"Rece had a great swim. That was a great time for him," Langland said. "Trey Hull also had another great meet for us. He's really come on strong in the freestyle. Some of his splits are really impressive. Cason Palm also did well swimming the 100 butterfly for the first time ever. That was a huge highlight for us."

Kretz, Nathan Whitney, Armel Bazin and Thomason joined up to compete as the four seniors honored on Senior Night for the Bulldog swimming team to post a time of 3:40.6. Carson Shively, who earned a win in the 500-yard freestyle in 5:27.84, joined Garrett Flannagan, Drew Twohill and Palm in rallying for a third-place finish for the Bulldogs in the 400 free finale in 4:14.51 to ensure the second dual win.

"It's always emotional when you get to Senior Night. I always tear up a little when I see those family members during the ceremony. It always feels like a little piece is leaving with them," Kretz said. "Be on the other end this year as one of the seniors being honored is unlike anything I've ever experienced."

After wrapping up the dual portion of the season Thursday at Des Moines East, the Bulldogs will return home Saturday to host the CIML Metro Conference swimming meet for just the second time in program history starting at noon.

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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