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The Gazette KCRG
Posted February 15, 2014
Iowa City West swims to state title

MARSHALLTOWN — When Iowa City West boys’ swimming coach Rob Miecznikowski was hired 15 years ago, he said his goal was to win a state championship.

With a young, talented squad he has called “a dream team,” Miecznikowski has fulfilled that goal.

West won six of the first eight events and closed a dominant day of swimming with a seventh gold in the 400-yard freestyle relay to earn the first boys’ state swimming championship in school history at the Marshalltown YMCA on Saturday.

“It was a perfect day,” Miecznikowski said. “We talked about this meet all year, what our goals were, and we achieved every one of them.”

With wins in the day’s first two events (200 medley relay and 200 free), West went wire-to-wire in first place and finished with 205 points, easily distancing itself from second-place Cedar Rapids Washington, which finished with 136.

Super sophomores Aidan Keen and Mark McGlaughlin claimed four gold medals each with two individual wins and two relay wins for the Trojans.

It was a day of redemption for Keen, who fell victim to freshman nerves and could only muster a bronze medal at state last year despite being the top seed in the 200 free and 500 free.

“I just went into this saying I had to be really confident,” Keen said. “It’s going to sound cocky, but I came in and I said, ‘I’m going to win everything.’ I had to say that to myself, otherwise I knew it wasn’t going to happen.”

Keen backed up his private guarantee with convincing victories in the 200 free (1:40.91) and 500 free (4:37.48) and was named athlete of the year. He started the 400 free relay win and anchored an upset win over top-seed West Des Moines Valley in the 200 free relay.

“In the week leading up to this meet, I don’t think I have ever been as intensely focused on swimming outside of the pool,” Keen said. “This is, so far, probably the happiest moment of my life.”

McGlaughlin, a state runner-up in the 100 backstroke last season, switched his focus to the 50 free over the summer and the move paid dividends. McGlaughlin bested Iowa signee R.J. Hemmingsen from Council Bluffs Lewis Central with a time of 20.67 seconds for the title.

“It became one of my better events,” McGlaughlin said. “I felt more confident in the 50. I think it’s a better race for me.”

McGlaughlin later added a 100 free title in a time of 45 seconds flat, and earned automatic All-American status with both of his individual wins. He book-ended the day by starting the 200 medley relay and anchoring the 400 free relay wins.

A second-place finish for Cedar Rapids Washington was its best since the Warriors last state championship in 2008.

“It was obviously an awesome day for our team,” Washington Coach Chris Cruise said. “It was great seeing our kids show up ready to swim today.”

Washington junior Jared Thorson’s time of 51.04 seconds in the 100 butterfly was good for second thanks to a state-record time of 47.84 seconds from Hemmingsen. Thorson anchored a third-place finish 200 free relay, and sophomore Nick Saulnier (200 individual medley) and freshman Cameron Kelley (500 free) also claimed bronze.

“It’s a testament to their swimming ability and what they’re able to do,” Cruise said. “They’re at the elite level because of all the hard work that they’ve put in.”

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