COUNCIL BLUFFS — Mason Parks’ competitive swimming career ends Saturday, and he’s intent on going out in style.
The Glenwood High School senior competes on the Council Bluffs Lewis Central team, and takes the third-fastest 200-yard freestyle time (1:43.80) from districts and fourth-fastest 100 freestyle time (47.37) into the 12:30 p.m. state meet at the University of Iowa’s Campus Recreation and Wellness Center in Iowa City.
“It feels kind of like a last push,’’ Parks said. “Going in, knowing I’m not going to swim in college, it’s kind of like the last hurrah kind of thing. A lot more motivation.’’
Parks also advanced in two relays with his teammates. He’ll join Carter Stangeland, Hunter Evans and Dallas Davis in the Titans’ 400 freestyle relay, which has qualified 16th, and Evans, Davis and Kamron Alexander in the 200 free relay, which has qualified 21st.
Alexander attends Glenwood, while Evans is a Treynor student, and Stangeland and Davis attend Lewis Central.
This is Parks’ third trip to state in the two individual events. As a sophomore, he placed 22nd in both races. Last year, he was 14th in the 100 freestyle and 17th in the 200 freestyle, as ex-teammate and current Iowa swimmer Jackson Allmon won both races.
Lewis Central coach Bruce Schomburg said there’s a reason Parks has made substantial improvement this season.
“He’s a senior,’’ he said. “So you see that difference. Last year he was a follower of Jackson Allmon. This year he’s more of a leader as a senior. He just took over a bigger role. He’s always worked hard, but this year I pushed him a lot and he accepted that and improved from there.’’
Parks, who also has competed on the state level for Glenwood in track and cross country, started swimming at age 5. Schomburg said he didn’t compete in the upper levels of club swimming, however.
“He’s done well over the last four years, with not having a huge background,’’ he said.
At last week’s district meet, Parks shaved three seconds off his season best in the 200 freestyle and more than one second off his personal best. In the 100 free, he dropped nearly a second off his season best.
“My mouth literally just dropped,’’ he said. “I swam a lot better than I expected myself to.’’
Those improvements have given Parks confidence about reaching his goal of a top-eight finish this weekend.
“My goal my entire high school career has been to podium at state,’’ he said. “If I finish the day with two PRs, I’ll be happy. But any place that I podium I’ll be just (thrilled).
“I’m feeling really smooth in the water right now. I really need to focus on the nitpicky stuff like keeping my head down and keeping tight on my turns.’’
The Iowa facility provides a thrill for all competitors. The Hawkeyes will host the men’s Big Ten championships this year and the men’s NCAA championships in 2021.
Schomburg said he believes his team has prepared well for the frenzied environment. The top 16 finishers in each event are scored.
“Our goal there would be to score some points,’’ he said. “If we can score points in the relays and in what Mason does, it would be a good meet.’’
Parks, who plans to attend Iowa State but forgo varsity sports, said competing with four teammates will enhance his final swimming experience.
“Going there is cool, but going there with your best friends, that’s better than anything,’’ he said. “Swimming’s just one of those things where you either love it or you hate it. I’m ready to be done, but I’m ready for that last meet.’’
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