It may be the big day on the collegiate gridiron with the Iowa vs. Iowa State football match-up, but there’s another big event that involves Waukee girls swimming and diving.


The Waukee girls will be on the road in Marion today at the Linn-Mar Aquatic Center for the ten-team Linn-Mar Invite. It’s the annual calendar circling event that has a lot of people excited, including Warrior head coach Shelley Twigg.


“The Linn-Mar Invite is the biggest test we’ll see early in the season and one of our biggest tests all season long,” began Twigg. “It’s the only time until state qualifying that we get to see these top teams from the East side of the state. A lot of these teams are well represented at state every year and it’s our chance to see how we stack up against them.”


The ten-team field includes Ames, Atlantic, Bettendorf, Cedar Falls, Dowling Catholic, Dubuque Senior, Dubuque Whalert, Mason City, Pleasant Valley, and host Linn-Mar. A big allure to the Linn-Mar Invite is the state qualifying potential from the competitive field to the pool itself, something coach Twigg wanted her team to keep an eye on.


“There is truth to a ‘fast pool’ and it’s important for swimmers to be aware of what pool they are swimming in,” said Twigg. “The temperature of the pool makes a difference, how the water runs over the gutter makes a difference and even the depth of the pool makes a difference. Linn-Mar’s facility has what we consider a fast pool and a large part of that has to do with the fact that there is no lip for the water to kick back with.”


With the recent change that allows swimmers to qualify for state during the regular season, the Warriors have routinely qualified for state early in the regular season. The Linn-Mar Invite has been a big part of that as the Warriors qualified over three swimmers for state last season at this time. This year may see an uptake in that especially with the format changes to the Linn-Mar Invite itself. Teams now are allowed four scoring entries instead of three along with two scoring relays.


Such a format benefits the Warriors who wield a very strong depth. That not only includes the 15 senior leaders but 21 extremely talented freshmen as well. Dubbed the best freshman class in Waukee girls swimming history, the freshman has more than just potential impact but have already contributed to the varsity scene this season. In fact, when talking about early state qualifiers, two Warriors have clinched their state-bound tickets, both of whom are freshmen. Jessica Wigham has produced state qualifying times in two events, the 200 and 500 freestyle while Mallory Kell will grace the state meet stage for sure in the 100 butterfly event.


There’s no doubt the future is extremely bright for Warrior girls swimming but even with that said, the current upperclassmen leadership also create a huge boost for the Waukee group. The senior group, just like the current freshmen class, has been impacting the varsity scene ever since they first entered the varsity waters. Two of those individuals who have been instrumental over the years includes multi-year letter winner Anna Hamling and Maddison Kemp. Both were among the top swimmers last year including Kemp who led all Warrior swimmers in state meet scoring last season. Just as they were last season, the duo of Kemp and Hamling have helped to establish an atmosphere of versatility, a huge boost to the team as coach Twigg mentioned.


“Anna and Maddison are fantastic athletic swimmers and are extremely versatile,” began Twigg. “We saw that a lot with Anna last year and that really helped us out because in a blink of an eye we went from having shortfalls in some areas to being strong in nearly every event because I was able to put Anna in any event and know the team has a state meet caliber swimmer in that event. That allows some of the other girls to improve upon their swimming at the varsity level which goes a long way to continue improving the depth of the team.”


All of that and more will take to the waters in the Linn-Mar aquatic center this morning. The diving events will kick things off beginning at 9 a.m. with the swimming events to follow at 12 p.m.