Koons takes over in the pool for Dodgers

Ashley Koons is feeling optimistic entering her first season as head coach of the Fort Dodge girls swim team.

Koons, who was an assistant under Michael Peterson last fall, returns five girls with state meet experience and a total of 27 swimmers overall.

“We had around 18 or 19 last year, so 27 is a big jump in numbers,” Koons said. “I’m really excited to have that many girls to work with and to take on the role of head coach and be that leader for them.”

Koons and the Dodgers got right to work when the season began early in August.

“We’ve been building on the momentum from last year,” she said. “A lot of girls worked really hard in the offseason and it is showing already. We’ve had several personal-best times already and are looking very fast.

“Fort Dodge has a great swim program and the success we had last year has motivated them to keep pushing for the top.”

Leading the way is three-event qualifier Lehr Thorson. The junior placed 23rd (1:10.62) in the 100 breaststroke and was part of the 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay.

“Lehr has a goal to podium at state,” Koons said. “She’s capable of some really great things.”

Joining her with state experience are sophomores Taylor Hartley and Katie Keith, and juniors Caitlyn Goebel and Gretta Leigh.

Thorson, Hartley, Keith and Goebel formed the 200 last season, while Hartley, Leigh, Keith and Thorson placed 20th in the 400 with a time of 3:45.00.

“Taylor, Katie, Caitlyn, Gretta and Lehr have all been training really hard,” she said. “They are ready to go for it this year (at state).

“They have also been great leaders for our younger girls, along with seniors Ashley Graham and Rachel Rethwisch. Those freshmen and new swimmers see (state) as a goal and really want to get there, too.

Koons is also looking for big things out of Adyson McKinney, who broke the one-minute mark during the intra-squad scrimmage recently.

“I see her doing some great things this year,” Koons said. “I think she will continue to improve and be helpful on both relays and individual events.”

Softball and soccer standout Meagan Hartman has decided to add swimming to her resume and has impressed Koons early on.

“This is Meagan’s first time out, but she’s keeping up with the varsity swimmers already,” Koons said. “I am excited to see what she pulls out.”

Fort Dodge opens its season tonight against Dowling at home. Diving begins the event at 5:30 p.m.

The Gary Winkler Invitational will take place Sept. 17, while the Dodgers will host both diving and swimming for the CIC Invitational on Oct. 20 and Oct. 22.

Koons will be assisted by Aaron Poldervaart this fall.

Pleasant Valley clipped Ames for the state team title last year. Fort Dodge will have duals against the Little Cyclones, West Des Moines Valley (fourth at state), Johnston (sixth) Southeast Polk (ninth), Ankeny (10th), Mason City (12th) and Spencer (14th).

Regional diving is scheduled for Oct. 29, with regional swimming two days later. The state meet is Nov. 6-7 in Marshalltown at the YMCA.