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Best for last

—Submitted photo FORT DODGE STATE SWIM QUALIFIERS are, front row (left to right): Grace Hartley and Rylie Steinkamp. Back: Eileen Fierke, Madigan Peimann and Elora Fierke.

MARSHALLTOWN — Ashley Beaumont doesn’t play the prediction game anymore.

Time and time again, her Fort Dodge girls swim team has shattered expectations at the state meet. So instead of trying to crunch the numbers and forecast outcomes ahead of time, Beaumont has learned to enjoy the ride with her Dodgers at the wheel.

“I was a little worried coming into the season that maybe we wouldn’t be quite as competitive with a smaller team (roster-wise),” Beaumont said. “But these girls have trusted the system and each other, and they’ve been willing to work together for the good of the team. That made such a difference early on in setting the tone for the year.

“Now I feel like anything is possible. I’m not going to set limits on what any of them can do (on Saturday). Seeing them have fun and work together as their times have dropped…I truly believe this could be a special weekend for our school and our program.”

Five swimmers will represent FDSH in nine total events at the YMCA Pool. Senior Madigan Peimann, junior Grace Hartley and freshman Eileen Fierke advanced in two individual events each, while senior Elora Fierke also qualified.

Peimann, Hartley and Eileen Fierke are also on the 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams, respectively, with junior Rylie Steinkamp on the former and Elora Fierke on the latter.

Hartley, who reached the finals and medaled last year with a school-record performance in the 500, will be seeded 15th in that event and 18th in the 200 IM. Peimann is 15th in the 100 freestyle and 25th in the 100 backstroke, while Eileen Fierke is 13th in the 200 freestyle and 22nd in the 500 freestyle.

“Madigan and Grace have already proven themselves on the big stage (in 2018),” Beaumont said. “They excelled when the stakes got high. Madigan has been a terrific senior leader, and Grace just puts so much effort into everything she does.

“Eileen won’t be intimidated or overwhelmed by the state atmosphere. She’s very excited and will be in her element. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a few school records fall. I’m not going to doubt for a second what these girls can accomplish.”

Elora Fierke will be seeded 26th in the 200 IM. The 400 freestyle relay is 12th, and the 200 free relay is 19th.

“Like Madigan, Elora has plenty of state experience. She knows what it takes,” Beaumont said. “She’s been another terrific senior. And Rylie is no stranger to the spotlight, either. I think we were kind of getting used to the new format (a year ago) with the prelims and the finals. Now they know how to handle it. Hopefully we find a way into that second swim (on Saturday by placing in the Top-8 of an event).”

The Dodgers prevailed nine times in dual meets this season, and captured five CIML Iowa Conference championships.

Peimann emphasized the importance of staying loose when the pressure intensifies.

“What really brought this team together was everyone’s personalities and attitudes toward one another,” Peimann said. “We decided to have fun in everything we did, whether it was goofing around (at lighter moments) during practice or dancing before a relay. It became our mission to make as many people laugh as possible.

“Obviously we do have to take a lot of things seriously, but having a mindset that was focused on everyone and not just one person was instrumental for this season’s continuing success.”

Peimann is now an 11-time state qualifier, having reached Marshalltown in all four of her high school years. Hartley has advanced in 10 different events through her first three seasons, and Elora Fierke is a seven-time participant. Steinkamp has been here before as well.

“We only have two seniors going down, but overall, we’re very experienced with this core group,” Beaumont said. “We’ve been building confidence all year, but state is obviously when we want to be at our very best.

“We found a good balance in our schedule, and were never really overwhelmed by the bigger schools. We’re well-prepared physically and mentally. I just think we’re going to make the most of this opportunity (on Saturday).”