CEDAR RAPIDS – It just doesn’t sound like it could be right.
But this could be a golden season for the Cedar Rapids Washington boys swimming team.
Come season’s end, the Warriors will be shooting for their mind-boggling 50th consecutive district championship.
“It is something all the kids take a great deal of pride in,” said Washington Coach Chris Cruise about the streak. “Nobody wants to be a part of the team that sees that streak end, but we have a long way to go between now and then.”
That journey begins Tuesday for many teams at the Cedar Rapids Invitational, hosted by Cedar Rapids Jefferson.
The Warriors finished seventh at state last year and must replace the talented trio of Morgan Barnes, Ian Ford and Scott Allison. But as has been the case over the past five decades, Washington appears to have able replacements coming into the program.
Senior Josh Hughes, sophomore Jared Thorson and junior Nick Durin all placed at state last year. Freshmen Nick Saulnier, Matt Jackson and Ian Hoover-Grinde have all been solid club swimmers.
“We think those young guys will really do a great job this year,” Cruise said. “They all have a lot of experience as club swimmers and could all be really special this year.”
While district titles have continue to come, the Warriors’ domination on the state level has waned. Washington has won 28 state championships since 1964, the last coming in 2008 under Cruise. Prior to that, the Warriors’ last state title came in 1997 after dominating the sport in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.
Cruise was a swimmer on the Jim Voss title teams in the 90s. He concedes that the strength of swimming in the state has shifted and he has a theory.
“This may sound like a copout, but back when I was swimming at Wash, the season was a month longer,” he said. “I think that hurts us a little because it gives you less time to get a seasonal swimmer ready for state.
“Swimming is a sport that has become one where you need to be in it all-year round to swim at that top level,” Cruise continued. “There are some kids who want to be involved in a variety of activities and with a shorter season, it makes it harder to get a kid like that trained for big meets like state.”
Cruise believes the Warriors can get back to being a contender for a state title, but doesn’t ever see a return to the dominance of the past. Cruise said the Warriors have a chance to contend for a top-5 state finish this year. He sees defending state champion Muscatine and West Des Moines Dowling at the favorites with Dubuque Senior having a chance to contend.
“We have a good program in place with a great tradition,” he said. “I see us in that pack of teams just outside the top group.
TEAMS TO WATCH
Cedar Rapids Washington – The Warriors finished seventh last year at state and have a solid corp of returning veterans, headed by senior Josh Hughes, junior Sami Scheetz and sophomore Jared Thorson. Coach Chris Cruise always seems to have those 2-3 swimmers step up to be leaders and with Hughes leading the way, he seems to have that type of group. “This is as fun a group as I can ever remember coaching,” Cruise said. “I am looking forward to getting this season started.”
Cedar Rapids Kennedy – Coach Shawn Thomsen’s team came on strong at the end last season, peaking with a strong performance at the district meet. The Cougars welcome back five state qualifiers, including John Richardson, Chandler Heisler, Harrison Moore, Dylan Casey and Andy Hanson. “They are a team on the move,” said Washington’s Cruise. “Kennedy’s program is heading in the right direction.”
Iowa City West – The Trojans were 10th at state last year and lost a pair of talented swimmers in Kaisen Yao and Anthony Lehnertz. West Coach Rob Miecznowski does return a pair of state qualifiers in Carson Miller and Thomas Burrill. The key for the Trojans will be if some younger swimmers in the program can step up to provide solid depth behind Miller and Burrill.
SWIMMERS TO WATCH
Josh Hughes, Sr., C.R. Washington – Finished third in the 500-yard freestyle and fifth in the 200 free at 2011 state meet. Was also on Warriors’ sixth-place 400 free relay and eighth-place 200 free relay.
Harris Thompson, Sr., Iowa City High – Finished ninth at state in the 500 free.
Jared Thorson, Soph., C.R. Washington – Was 10th at state in the 100 butterfly and was a part of the 200 and 400 free relays that place at state.
Carson Miller, Jr. and Thomas Burrill, Sr., Iowa City West – Both were on sixth-place finishing 200 free relay and 10th-place 200 medley relay at state.
Sami Scheetz, Jr., Cedar Rapids Washington – Was on the Warriors’ seventh-place finishing 200 medley relay at state.
Nov. 20 – Metro Invitational at Jefferson
Dec. 1 – J-Hawk Relays at Jefferson
Jan. 12 – Jim Voss Invitational at C.R. Washington
Jan. 19 – MVC Super Meet at Jefferson
Feb. 2 – District meet at Mercer Aquatic Center in Iowa City
Feb. 9 – State meet at Marshallown YMCA