MARSHALLTOWN — The competitor in Libby Moses dove into the pool on Saturday concentrating on swimming her hardest, hoping to earn at least a share of a third Ottumwa girls swimming program record in the 400 free relay finale.

Once her final 100 yards as a high school swimmer were complete, conflicting emotions hit Moses. On one hand, Ava Johnson and Mac Payne were still trying to chase down the 400 free relay record.

On the other hand, Moses realized immediately what it meant when she climbed out of the pool following the second leg of the season's final event.

"I had actually started thinking about it before the race, but during the race I couldn't really think about anything else," Moses said. "Once I got out of that pool, that's when it hit me. I'm officially done with high school swimming."

The final day together as teammates saw Moses, Leah Chelgren, Johnson and Payne post a pair of top-20 finishes at the 56th Annual Iowa Girls' High School State Swimming and Diving Championships. While the teammates could not lower their times from last week's regional meet, where the Bulldog foursome broke the school record in the 200 medley relay and tied the program's best time in the 200 free relay, the teammates added to their incredible two-year resume by finishing 19th in the 200 medley on Saturday in 1:54.07, the second-fastest time in program history improving on last year's 30th-place swim of 1:58.98 at state.

Chelgren, Moses, Johnson and Payne then swam to a 20th-place finish in the 200 free relay, making a nine-place improvement on last year's 29th-place swim in the event. The teammates also improved last year's state swim in the event by 1.46 seconds, finishing Saturday's race in 1:43.48 after matching the program record at the state qualifier in Ankeny posting a time of 1:43.26 one week earlier.

"I feel like we've been on an adrenaline rush for the past two days," Chelgren, who like Moses closed out her Ottumwa High School swimming career on Saturday competing in a third straight state meet. "It's emotionally and physically draining. I can't even think of the words. I'm just very happy to be here with the people I'm with. They make this so much better.

"There were a few times I was so tired, but I just had to remind myself I'm here with Libby. I'm here with Mac. I'm here with Ava. I'm here with all the alternates, all the managers, the coaches and all my family. It made it a lot easier to just have fun and enjoy it."

In their final swim together, Chelgren and Moses joined Johnson and Payne in producing their best time yet in the 400 free relay. The same team that finished 31st in 3:56.68 last year at state finished 29th on Saturday in 3:49.42, less than a second away from breaking the record set in 2005 by Katie Young, Mikaela Reif, Katie Jay and Alyssa Schwenk who also now share the 200 free relay with this year's OHS relay squad.

"We're going to miss Leah and Libby. They've been great leaders for this program," Ottumwa girls swimming coach Heather Simplot said. "They've stepped up throughout the entire season. They're great assets to the team. They'll definitely be missed by the whole team."

Between their state relay swims, the Ottumwa teammates cheered on a former YMCA Hurricane teammate in the 100-yard backstroke. Fairfield sophomore Willow Larsen, making her debut in state final after breaking the school record one night earlier with a 59.22-second swim in the state preliminaries, finished 16th in Saturday's final posting a time of 1:00.73.

"I'm not completely happy with how I swam the final, but I'm also not unhappy getting the chance to swim in a final after not making it out of the preliminaries last year," Larsen said. "This was a completely different experience. It was so close for everyone on Friday. No one was sure if they had made it to the finals or not.

"I wanted to swim well, but I just wanted to swim my best. It didn't really matter where I placed in the final. I just wanted to make it. I may not have swam my best time in the finals, but I'm not made about it."

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


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