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Liberty’s Lightning Bolts join Women of Troy to make a splash

IOWA CITY– The Iowa City West High Women of Troy swimmers will have their ranks bolstered this season by the Liberty High Lightning Bolts. With Liberty opening this month, many would-be West High freshmen and sophomores will instead go to Liberty. While the new school will field several athletic programs of it’s own in the 2017-18 school year, some programs, such as swimming, will be shared with West High.
Coach Byron Butler, with five years leading West, has five seniors (Alleyna Thomas, Melanie Housenga, Jennifer Du, Mae Grahs and Izabel Houselog) back in his line-up to provide experience and guidance to a sizable crop of West and Liberty freshmen.
Thomas and Housenga earned First Team All-Conference honors last year. Both compete in the individual medley (IM). Du earned Second Team All-Conference honors and specializes in the breaststroke while Grahs, an All-Conference Honorable Mention, is a freestyle swimmer along with Houselog, who also earned an All-Conference Honorable Mention.
Lily Ernst, a sophomore, is also back in the pool for West after earning a spot on the All-Conference First Team. Ernst is in the butterfly and individual medley along with sophomore Austyn Goodale, a diver. Butler will also look to Liberty senior Breeyn Grypp (diving) and sophomores Kate Netolicky (breaststroke/butterfly) from West and Audrey Wubbena (from Washington).
West High freshmen include Nola Fremino (breaststroke/freestyle), Lauren Frank (backstroke/freestyle), Jenny Geng (breaststroke/IM), Tamara Hamzeh (possibly freestyle), Margaret Liu (breaststroke/IM), Aurora Roghair (freestyle/backstroke/IM) and Silvia Tinelli (possibly freestyle). Liberty freshmen include Vivian Gibson (IM), Lexi Janik (breaststroke/butterfly/IM), Anna Reese (possibly IM) and Lizzy Wilkins (possibly freestyle).
Butler was optimistic about the upcoming season, saying the team has, “tons of experience and a new hungry group of talented freshmen.”
“We lost some relay power and some depth that left with the graduating seniors,” Butler said. “However, I think the incoming freshmen will help a ton!”
Butler sees the Mississippi Valley Conference (MVC) as tough as ever, but “I see us being in the upper half, but being very competitive with everyone.”
The Women of Troy were 6-4 overall last year, had a 5-3 MVC showing and had swimmers in six out of twelve events at the 2016 State Swimming and Diving Meet with a 28th-place team finish. Ernst had West High’s best individual finish with an 11th-place showing in the 200-yard IM. Housenga was 12th in the event. Housenga, Ernst, Elaine Martz (now graduated) and Thomas had the squad’s best relay finish at State with an 18th-place showing in the 400-yard freestyle.
Jordan O’Donnell, Tory Rose, Anna Haller and Becca Hilmer (diving) will assist Butler this season, which opens on Tuesday, Aug. 22, at Cedar Rapids Jefferson. West’s first home meet is set for Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 6 p.m. as Cedar Rapids Kennedy visits the Coralville Rec Center (1506 8th St.).