While the ultimate goal might not have been achieved, the Fort Dodge boys swim team continued to make strides in a positive direction here Saturday.
Despite finishing third in their own 22nd annual Rusty Garst Invitational with 215 points, the Dodgers captured four silver and four bronze medals. Sioux City (225) took home top honors, followed closely by last year's meet champion Waterloo West (221).
"I knew it was going to basically be a four-team battle, which is exactly what it came down to," FDSH head coach Joel Greathouse said. "All the teams were very close in the power rankings, so we can't be disappointed. Although we didn't have any spectacular first-place finishes, I thought we were just very solid as a team. We had a lot of season bests (yesterday)."
Josh Lee, a senior, turned in runner-up efforts for the Dodgers in both the 50 freestyle (23.21) and 100 freestyle (51.89). Freshman Cole Davis was also second in the 100 backstroke, clocking a 1:01.33.
In addition, Lee and Davis competed on Fort Dodge's 200 freestyle relay quartet, along with juniors Rob Leigh and Caleb Asay. That foursome was second in 1:34.19.
"Our 200 freestyle relay dropped quite a bit of time," said Greathouse. "There's a lot of pressure being put on our two freshmen, Cole Davis and Mitch Emery, but they continue to perform well at every meet."
Leigh (100 butterfly, 55.83 and 200 freestyle, 1:52.47), Emery (500 freestyle, 5:28.16) and the 400 freestyle relay (Leigh, Asay, sophomore Riley Helmers and Emery, 3:34.44) all checked in third for the Dodgers, who earned their only Rusty Garst Invitational titles in school history in 2011 and 2012.
"Rob Leigh in the butterfly was an exciting race to watch," Greathouse said. "Mitch Emery dropped about 20 seconds off his 500 freestyle time, too, in getting third after being seeded fifth coming in. One other guy that really stood out was Riley Helmers, who has dropped an incredible amount of time and has consistently improved over the last month."
Settling for fourth was Davis in the 200 individual medley (2:14.20). Placing fifth were Emery (200 individual medley, 2:16.99), senior Tucker Van Wey (500 freestyle, 5:32.66) and the 200 medley relay (Davis, sophomore Nick Sanford, Lee and Emery, 1:49.87).
"It's fun anytime you can have a competitive invitational like this, which is why all the teams love coming here," said Greathouse. "Everybody obviously wants to be faster, but I'm content with where we're at right now before we get ready to taper."
Newton's Isaak Webb (100 butterfly, 55.04 and 100 breaststroke, 1:03.86) and Jake Lensing (50 freestyle, 22.74 and 100 freestyle, 51.89) were both double individual winners. Webb and Lensing were also members of the victorious 200 medley (1:42.27) and 400 freestyle (3:23.92) relays for the Cardinals, who finished fourth (195) in the team race.
Decorah (126), Carroll (123) and Spencer (107) rounded out the field.
FDSH will host districts on Feb. 8. Carroll, Sioux City and Spencer will all participate in that meet as well.
Next outing for the Dodgers is Monday at Ankeny. Start time is set for 5:30 p.m.