OTTUMWA — In six seasons as an Ottumwa High School head swimming coach, Cherie Langland has seen plenty of swimmers walk into the competition pool at The Beach Ottumwa.
Whether for practice or for a meet, every Ottumwa swimmer has seen the same names and times posted on the large board that’s impossible to miss for anyone that has walked indoors around the Mike McWilliams pool. Many OHS swimmers have talked about being the one to add their name to the list of great student athletes who have posted either a program or pool record, including Rod Starkweather who had the longest-standing record in program history with a 21.66-second 50 freestyle swam for OHS back in 1983.
After 37 years, a new name is now on the board in place of Starkwheather. Kevin Kretz was honored Wednesday by his coaches and teammates as his placard was officially slid into the record board as the fastest male 50 free swimmer in the history of the OHS swimming program.
Kretz set the record in his final 50 freestyle race of his junior season swimming for the Bulldogs. Kretz placed 14th in the Iowa High School State Swimming meet earlier this month, clocking in a time of 21.64 seconds, becoming the first Ottumwa swimmer to break a program record of any kind since 2005.
“Cherie mentioned the day after the state meet we were probably going to get together when they had something ready to place on the board. I didn’t think it would be anything this big with so many people coming out for this,” Kretz said. “It means a ton to me. I couldn’t imagine it any other way. This whole season I’ve spent with all these guys around me. If anyone else had broken a record, we’d have the exact same turnout. Everybody would be here and everybody would be celebrating because we know that whoever it was that broke the record would totally deserve it.”
Putting his name in the Ottumwa swimming record books is the reward for years of hard work, as is the medal that Kretz received at the state meet after placing eighth in the 100 freestyle. Kretz finished with a personal-best time of 47.22 seconds in that race in Iowa City, just over a second shy of the school record mark of 46.2 seconds set by Jeff Bratten in 2004.
Should Kretz hit either his school record mark of 21.64 seconds in the 50 or 47.22 seconds in the 100 during a home meet next season, Kretz would break the pool records. With one more year to improve in every event he swims in, Kretz may not be done putting his name on the board at The Beach.
“It definitely helps open that door of possibilities. Once you know that you’ve done it, you’ve put yourself out there and you can actually do it by putting in the hard work,” Kretz said.
Langland has coached Kretz, helping the junior from Fairfield become a high school state placewinner and a YMCA Short Course national qualifier. The secret to the success of Kretz was seen the very next day after competing in this year’s high school state swimming meet.
“We trained very hard so that he had the best taper at state and we could fire him out of the fiercest cannon. The very next day, he’s right back at the pool working just as hard as he did before the state meet,” Langland said. “That’s an example of the drive Kevin has that sets him apart. It’s that kind of hard work and drive that allows him to break a 37-year-old record and gets him on the podium at state. That fire to work that hard consistently every single day is what allows him to accomplish those goals.”
Kretz is far from done with swimming in 2020. Besides preparing for his senior season swimming for the Bulldogs, Kretz also has a return to the YMCA National Short Course Championships to prepare for after already posting times that have qualified for the meet this summer in North Carolina.
“We are fortunate as a program that we have that lesson on the board showing all our swimmers that it can be done,” Langland said. “We haven’t had that lesson. Those names are in our history. A lot of our swimmers don’t know those names on the board or are familiar with what those swimmers have accomplished. They see the name of a swimmer they know and admire. They understand that, if they do what they see him doing every day, that could be them up on that board.”