New look for Winkler Invite

The Fort Dodge girls swim program will take a step in a new direction here Saturday for the Gary Winkler Invitational.

The Dodgers shift away from the traditional meet format, instead adopting a complete prelim/final swimming and diving meet.

“We wanted to give out kids another option,” said FDSH head coach Ashley Koons. “Most colleges swim in this format, so we wanted swimmers to get a better feel for it.”

The Winkler Invitational will be the first in the state of Iowa to work under these rules.

“Other states run their meets this way,” Koons said. “With the Iowa Central team back and the USA Team (ACAC) flourishing in Fort Dodge, it gives kids more experience and more time in the water.

“It allows them to have more than one chance to swim in their event, rather than just have one time.”

Koons likes that the competitors will participate multiple times in an event, with the opportunity for improvement.

“It gets more kids involved,” Koons said. “If a kid swims the 50, she’s done. But now, if you don’t swim well in the morning prelims and advance, you get a chance to do better.”

The format was discussed and changed to give kids an opportunity to try something different.

“The goal of this new meet format is to introduce swimmers to another level of swimming,” according to a FDSH press release. “By running a prelim/final meet, we can give swimmers a mid-season championship meet that will introduce our high school athletes to a meet format that they will encounter at the collegiate level.

“Our schools work to ready students for their next level of education and it is our hope that this invite will be a building block to help swimmers reach the next level in their athletic careers.”

The prelim session will begin at 11 a.m. in the Dodger Pool. The finals are scheduled for 6 p.m.

The top eight prelim times will advance to the finals.

Joining Fort Dodge will be Algona, Carroll, Johnston, Council Bluffs Lewis Central, Perry, Sioux City North, Spencer and Storm Lake.

The Dodgers have gotten off to a record-breaking start this year, and are hoping to continue their success in a special day for the program.

“I’m speechless, really,” Koons said about her squad’s efforts to date. “This is a hard working group and they have high goals.

“They’re pushing themselves to where they want to go, and they’re very capable of anything.”

Current members of the Dodger swim team already hold eight different school event records.

Taylor Hartley has school best times in the 200-yard freestyle (1:56.24), 200-yard individual medley (2:13.94), 100-yard freestyle (53.57) and the 500-yard freestyle (5:24.92).

Hartley was also a part of the record-setting 200-yard freestyle relay (1:41.02) with Lehr Thorson, Gretta Leigh and Adyson McKinney last fall.

Hartley, Leigh, Kate Keith and Thorson have the top mark in the 400-yard freestyle relay as well (3:40.97).

Thorson is No. 1 at FDSH in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:09.02), and Gretta Leigh holds the 50-yard freestyle mark (25.22).

Hartley already broke the 200 IM and the 500 records this season.