OTTUMWA — At first, Willow Larsen was slightly disappointed.

Larsen had a goal of finishing the 100-yard breaststroke on Monday night in the final regular-season meet of the season for the Ottumwa High School girls swimming team in 1:08.51. With that time, Larsen would secure her a spot at state in a second event having already qualified earlier this season for the 100-yard backstroke.

Larsen looked up at the scoreboard at Mike McWilliams Pool. The time of 1:09.85 left Larsen just over a second shy of achieving the state-qualifying mark.

One glance to the right at the list of school record times, however, gave Larsen a big reason to smile. Leah Ringo's 28-year school record time of 1:10.46 fell on Monday giving Larsen a second OHS swimming record having already broken the 100-yard backstroke record earlier this season at Marshalltown.

"Once I looked over and saw 1:10, I knew I had the program record," Larsen said. "I've thought about it, but for me making it to state was the main focus coming into the night. I would have liked to have qualified in two different events. It's awesome that I got the record, but that wasn't in the plans for the night."

Larsen nearly broke two program records on Monday, coming within a second of breaking a 23-year record set by Laurie Bratten in the 200-yard individual medley. Larsen took over four seconds off her previous best time in the event, posting 2:16.37 finishing just 0.8 behind Bratten's 1999 record mark of 2:15.57.

"I was really surprised when I looked up at the board and saw that I swam that fast," Larsen said. "Since I did so well in that race, I don't know if I should swim in the breaststroke or the individual medley at regionals. I'll have to talk to (OHS girls assistant coach) Cherie (Langland) about it."

Larsen's record swim in the breaststroke helped close out a winning night in the final tune-up for Ottumwa. The Bulldogs picked up dual wins over Oskaloosa (95-71), Keokuk (110-37) and Centerville (112-42), giving OHS a final dual record of 9-5 this season.

"It was a good meet all around. We cut time all around and let girls go out there to compete in events they don't usually swim in," Ottumwa head girls swimming coach Staci Bergman said. "For the girls that are going to go to regionals and state, it was a good chance to switch things up so they don't get worn out."

The thrill of watching Larsen break a program record helped momentarily take some of the emotional focus off the final swim of the night for Ottumwa senior teammates Sara McElroy and Mac Payne. The two swam the final two legs of the 400 free relay in their final race together at the Mike McWilliams competition pool.

"I actually looked back before race and my mom was bawling," Payne said. "I wasn't sure if I was happy or sad before I got in the water for the final time. It was a good mix of emotions."

Payne and McElroy were both grinning ear to ear, however, after introducing their first-year head coach to a tradition that follows the final home meet for the Ottumwa swim team. After failing to catch up with Bergman on Senior Night earlier this month, Payne and McElroy helped their head coach into the pool for one final celebration.

"They tried to catch me on Senior Night and I ran away. This time, they were barricading me in," Bergman said. "I just went with it. I made sure to take off my very expensive running shoes first. The running shoes do not need to be in the pool."

Payne joined Larsen, Ava and Finley Johnson in 200-yard medley and free relay wins, posting times of 2:05.51 in the medley and 1:50.53 in the free relay. With Larsen not competing in the backstroke on Monday, Finley Johnson stepped in to earn the win in her debut in the race beating Oskaloosa senior Callie Lindgren by over nine seconds in 1:15.17.

"She came up to me before the race and told me she doesn't normally swim a backstroke. I told her she does today," Bergman said. "For a freshman, she did great. She's such a hard worker. I can't wait to see what's in store for her."

Lilly Morrison also picked up a pair of wins to close out her season, swimming 850 total yards in four races. After pulling away from Oskaloosa senior Callie Lindgren to win the 200-yard freestyle by over nine seconds in 2:21.54, Morrison edged Oskaloosa junior Grace Moore by just over a second in the 500-yard freestyle finishing the longest race of the meet in 6:19.75.

"I'm pretty exhausted," Morrison said. "I'm not sure how I made it through the night. I just kind of kept going and the night just kind of went by."

Oskaloosa (6-7) picked up two dual wins on Monday, beating Keokuk 115-40 and Centerville 119-36 with a winning swim of 4:31.18 by Lindgren, Moore, Vivian Bolibaugh and Maddy Moorman closing the night out in the 400 free relay for the Indians. Keokuk (3-10) edged Centerville, 63-59, in the closest dual of the night with a key win coming in the 100-yard butterfly as Kylie Dodson took first place for the Chiefs in 1:17.41 while Brynn Clark finished second for the Redettes in 1:26.16.

Ottumwa and Centerville (1-10) will both compete in the Region 4 state qualifying meet hosted by Johnston at Summit Middle School on Saturday, Nov. 5.

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


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