CLINTON — It might have been a loss on the scoreboard, but the River Kings were feeling positive after Dubuque Senior defeated Clinton 122-47 in boys swimming Tuesday night at the Clinton Aquatic Center.
Jack Marlowe and Chris Taylor-Bice each earned a runner-up finish individually, and each also was part of a second-place effort in the relays.
That almost wasn’t the case for Taylor-Bice, however.
Payton Raaymakers, Noah Smith, Tanner Raaymakers and Taylor-Bice gave Clinton a comfortable edge for second place through the first seven laps of the 400-yard freestyle relay, but Senior’s Josh Rusch put on a late charge and caught Taylor-Bice. That forced Taylor-Bice to go all out, and he edged Rusch to the finish by seven-hundredths of a second.
“The last 15 yards, I took a breath, and it was a little bit closer than I expected,” Taylor-Bice, a junior, said. “It’s the best time to be in a race because it’s your best motivation — you want to finish — but it’s also the scariest time because it’s easy to get out-touched. To lose by that amount is one of the worst feelings you can have.
“When you just win by a hair’s breath, it’s like a good golf shot. It keeps you coming back to the pool every day.”
Taylor-Bice also grabbed second in the 500 freestyle. Rusch won in 6:02.73, and Taylor-Bice edged Senior’s Connor Miller by 2.18 seconds (6:35.54-6:37.72).
“I got a (personal record) in the 500 free,” Taylor-Bice said. “Coach Tony (Hunter) has worked with me with fixing my freestyle stroke and pretty much completely reworking it. So getting a PR in my second meet is a good feeling.”
Marlowe, a sophomore, got Clinton’s first second of the night. He finished the 200 individual medley in 2:23.73, behind only Senior’s Joe Maddux (2:19.57).
“I’m very happy with the 200 IM,” Marlowe said. “I think it’s one of the hardest races you can swim, and it takes a lot out of you. Just to be able to finish it well is an accomplishment.”
Marlowe said the final two strokes were his strength in the race, so he put extra emphasis on the opening butterfly leg and the 50 backstroke, which is second.
“I’m good at the breaststroke and the freestyle in that one,” he said. “The 50 fly, I always try to go faster than what I did before, and the 50 back, I always try to keep a strong kick to keep myself going through the water. The 50 breast is when I usually catch up or get ahead of others, and the 50 free is just where I take it home.”
Later, Marlowe led off Clinton’s 200 freestyle relay, and Aidan Smith, Noah Smith and Payton Raaymakers followed for a time of 1:51.09. Senior won in 1:41.12.
Coach Albert Hayton said he had seen improvement from his young team, which had just one senior (Nate Cady) competing on Tuesday.
“I’ve seen lots of improvement, even off last year’s times,” Hayton said. “That’s a good way to start the season. Of course, there’s a long way to go.”
Hayton breaks the season into three portions: the preseason, the pre-holiday portion where he breaks down the team heading into the grueling holiday break practices, then the taper for the district meet.
“The goals right now are to try to figure everybody out, everybody’s place on the team,” he said.