By Mike Condon, correspondent
CEDAR RAPIDS — Every year for nearly the last half century the question has been out there.
Can Cedar Rapids Washington continue its amazing streak of boys’ district swimming championships?
The Warriors will be in search of a 49th consecutive district title Saturday at Cedar Rapids Jefferson. Eight teams are entered in the meet that begins at 12:30 p.m.
As has been the case many times during Washington’s streak, a contender looms large in 2012.
“Dubuque Senior is our biggest threat, no question about that,” said Warrior senior Morgan Barnes. “They are about 10 points ahead of us on paper.”
The Warriors have been on the short end of the paper trail in the past, but have always found a way to win. Washington Coach Chris Cruise said his swimmers are aware of what is at stake Saturday.
“The kids think about (the streak) and talk about it an awful lot,” Cruise said. “In the same breath they know that the focus is on the state meet, but the two are indirectly tied together. I can’t imagine what their mental state would be if they were the ones who let the streak end.”
Saturday’s meet shapes up as a two-team race. Senior is ranked fifth in the latest power rankings released by the Iowa High School Swim Coaches Association, one spot ahead of the Warriors. Iowa City West (15th) is the next highest ranked team in the field.
Senior’s strengths are in the sprints while the Warriors are stronger in the distance events.
“There are more sprint events, so that gives Senior a little edge,” Cruise said. “They are loaded in those events and should be able to score well.”
Barnes is just one of Washington’s top threats. He is among the state’s best in the 200- and 500-yard freestyles. Junior Josh Hughes is ranked third in the 500 free while senior Ian Ford is ranked No. 3 in the 100 backstroke and seventh in the 200 individual medley. For the Rams, junior Josh Gill is among the state leaders in the sprints and senior Connor Huff is a top 10 performer in the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke.
Cruise expects the standouts to swim as they have all season. He said the meet will be won or lost by the performance of each team’s second and third individual in each event.
“We know what the Barnes’, the Hughes’ and the Fords will do,” Cruise said. “The key will likely be how our second and third guys in an event place. In a meet like this, that is where there are several points available. That has made a big difference for us in past years.”
Barnes said the Warrior swimmers have no special plans heading into the meet.
“I try to treat it just like another meet,” he said. “We will go shopping on Thursday or Friday, then have a team meal before the meet and then get together and relax after the meet, hopefully celebrating (winning the district).”
Where: Cedar Rapids Jefferson Pool
Time: 12:30 p.m.
Teams: C.R. Jefferson (28th in state power rankings), C.R. Kennedy (22), C.R. Washington (6), Decorah (34), Dubuque Hempstead (30), Dubuque Senior (5), Iowa City High (21), Iowa City West (15).
Swimmers to watch (Top 10 event times, as of Jan. 27)
200-yard freestyle — 4. Morgan Barnes (CRW), 1:45.79; 5. Josh Hughes (CRW) 1:46.12.
200 IM — 2. Connor Huff (DS) 1:59.1; 7. Ian Ford (CRW) 1:59.81.
50 free — 3. Josh Gill (DS) 21.65; 4. Kaisen Yao (ICW) 21.78; 8. Alex Duster (DS) 22.74.
100 butterfly — 2. Yao (ICW) 53.64. 100 free: 4. Gill (DS) 48.27; 10. Yao (ICW) 48.86.
500 free — 3. Hughes (CRW) 4:50.31; 5. Barnes (CRW) 4:51.01; 7. Harris Thompson (ICH) 4:54.9; 9. Kelly McNeilly (ICH) 4:57.54
100 backstroke — 3. Ford (CRW) 53.88
100 breaststroke — 6. Huff (DS) 1:01.84; 9. Yao (ICW) 1:02.02
200 medley relay — 7. C.R. Washington, 1:41.1; 8. Iowa City West, 1:41.17.
200 free relay — 2. Dubuque Senior 1:28.46; 5. Iowa City West 1:29.33.
400 free relay — 3. Dubuque Senior 3:17.51; 7. C.R. Washington 3:20.32.