MASON CITY, Iowa – The Mason City swim team is made up of athletes who rise early, leave their warm beds and ride to practice on icy cold Iowa mornings. Now the program is taking one of its most competitive groups to the state finals in Iowa City in more than a decade.
“We focused it down to the conference meet and district meet last Saturday to see who qualified for state,” said head coach, Steve Hugo. “We had 27 out of 27 best times at the meet and five lucky guys get to go to the state meet.”
They move with a combination of robotic precision and organic fluidity, stroke after stroke honed to perfection. It is a group that includes Nicholas Litterer, Randy Vaughan, August Davison, Michael Rowe, and Ben Hehr who feels the weight of expectation.
“Coming in we felt a lot of expectations this year, especially in the 400 free relay,” said Ben Hehr. “We should definitely be in this year so going in and knowing we’ve got a pretty good seat, especially trying for that school record…it’s a lot of hard work paying off.”
A school record and a state title would make the mornings under the water, gliding dolphin-like for countless laps entirely worth it.
“I remember starting back here as a kid in second and third grade, looking up at the record board back there and seeing the names on there,” said Hehr. “I’ve pretty much got it memorized by now so to have yourself on that board would be pretty awesome.”
Another contender with high expectations is Nicholas Litterer who hopes to break the school’s 100-meter backstroke record.
“Right now I’m going in placed eighth in my backstroke, so a top-eight medal, so I’m hoping I can pull out a medal in that,” said Litterer.
The aqua-athlete knows the record won’t come easy.
“Probably will have to drop a little bit of time or at least hope no one else drops time too, but yeah, just try to stay where I’m at,” added Litterer.
Now in his 35th season, Coach Hugo is confident his team will swim into the history books.
“I swam in high school here and turned out quite a few state champion swimmers, All-American swimmers, some state champ teams, conference champ teams…good things happen in this little tub.”