Ottumwa swimmers at YMCA State Meet

Mar. 17—OTTUMWA — More than just the occasion snow shower has brought the feeling of the holiday season to the Ottumwa YMCA.

When the members of the Ottumwa Hurricane youth swimming team arrived for practice on Wednesday, there was a sound very familiar to jingle bells. It came from the multiple medals earned by the talented young swimmers.

Hurricane swimmers combined to win eight Iowa YMCA state earlier this month at the Linda Bloom Natatorium with nine more silver medals for runner-up finishes and five more bronze medals for a top-three finish. When it was all said and done, 18 different swimmers had collected medals competing in multiple swims over multiple age divisions including three state records broke by Piper Gevock helping Ottumwa place fifth in the state among Division 3 programs with 297.5 points while the Ottumwa boys finished fourth with 264 points.

"We had a lot of people step up and a lot of people cut a lot of times," Ottumwa Hurricanes coach Heather Simplot said. "It always helps for someone to go out there and be the first swimmer to accomplish it. Piper was the very first swimmer of the entire state meet. She went out there and set a state record in the very first race. I think that set a great tone for the rest of the meet."

Gevock set a unique tone for the state meet as the only 11-12 year-old female swimmer to compete in the 400-yard individual medley. One of the toughest races to compete and qualify in for youth swimmers, Gevock posted a state-record time of 5:12.82 with all eyes on her collecting her sixth state championship medal in the past three years.

"It helps to have to experience from previous state meets," Piper Gevock said. "I was a little more nervous for that race because I was the only swimmer in my age group. Knowing I was one of the only 11-12 year-old swimmers that could even do it helped my confidence."

Before the girls YMCA state meet was over, Gevock had added two more state-record swims to bring home her seventh and eighth state championship medals over the past three years. Gevock broke the girls 11-12 year-old state butterfly record, posting a winning time of 2:38.44, and won by nearly four seconds in the girls 11-12 year-old butterfly in a state record time of 1:06.26.

"That first swim really lifted me for the rest of the day," Piper Gevock said. "I'm very proud. It just shows that all the hard work I've put into swimming is paying off."

Gevock's older brother, Ashton, would bring home quite a haul of his own during the boys state YMCA meet placing second in the 15-21 year-old 100-yard breaststroke (1:02.27) while helping Ottumwa finish second in both the 15-21 year-old 200-yard free (1:33.41) and medley (1:41.38) relays. The two-time Ottumwa High School state qualifier and YMCA national qualifier certainly drew inspiration from watching his younger siblings have success.

"It's almost more fun to go up there and watch," Ashton Gevock said. "Seeing how well my sisters swam was great. We had to hold that up and keep doing good throughout the weekend."

Trinity Gevock and Charley Gevock also earned state medals for the Hurricanes as did Daphanie Morrison, Lilly Morrison and Penelope Morrison for the Ottumwa YMCA girls. Penelope Morrison would bring home her second straight state championship in the 50-yard freestyle, sprinting up and down the pool inside the Marshalltown YMCA to swim a personal-best 26.98 seconds.

"It was scary going into it, but after I swam it felt like a volcano inside me erupted," Penelope Morrison said. "I just felt like I could swim the rest of the day without any stress."

Ava Johnson, Finley Johnson and Ellie Mischler earned state medals for the Hurricane girls while Jack Morrison, Louis Morrison, Kallen Lowenberg, Elliott Zimmeht and Joey Tacke earned state medals for the Hurricane boys. Nathan Calhoun won state championships in both the boys 13-21 year-old 200-yard breaststroke, finishing the race in 2:21.51, while dashing to a state-winning time of 28.69 seconds in the boys 13-21 year-old 50-yard breaststroke.

Jonathan Miller also claimed a state championship for the Hurricanes, making a winning return to 200-yard backstroke finishing the boys 13-21 year-old state race in 2:05. Miller, coming off a successful freshman season for the Ottumwa Bulldogs, also won a state YMCA title in the boys 13-14 year-old 100-yard breaststroke in 1:04.57.

"It was kind of nice to swim the 200 backstroke. It's one of my favorite races," Miller said. "Knowing what the big meets are like and how much hard work it takes to compete in those races certainly helped. I felt more confident in myself."

Many members of the Ottumwa Hurricanes will compete this weekend in the YMCA North Central district swimming meet. Action got underway in Des Moines at the Wellmark YMCA on Friday and will continue on Saturday and Sunday in the Prairie Meadows Pool with Ottumwa swimmers looking to bring home more medals and potentially qualify for YMCA nationals.

"We're hoping to get the medley relay to nationals. That's me, Ashton, Nathan and Cameron (Manary)," Miller said. "We've actually seen our times drop since competing in that event at state. We're within a second of qualifying for nationals right now. I think we've got a good chance of gaining that second this weekend."