Before the 2019 swim and dive season, Mason City’s Rosa Monarch wanted to try out for the Mohawks’ team, but ultimately "chickened out."
A longtime gymnast, Monarch had decided that she wanted to give diving a try, but after going to a diving camp over the summer, temporarily changed her mind.
"The girls there were amazing, and I was like 'I can’t do this,” Monarch said. “So I didn’t, and I talked to one of my teammates and asked what the people at the diving meets here were doing. I thought maybe I’ll do it next year.”
Now, more than a year later, the Mason City sophomore is glad she finally made the jump. This Friday morning, Monarch will compete at the Iowa high school state diving meet in Marshalltown, the first Mohawks diver to make the trip since 2009.
“I’m excited,” Monarch said. “I’m just trying to get past the first round, taking it dive by dive. I have absolutely no idea what a state meet is going to look like. The girls I’ve gone against were incredible. I’m trying to do my best.”
Though she is only in her first season as a diver, Mason City swim and dive coach Steve Hugo is convinced that Monarch's experience as a gymnast has helped her succeed on the board this year.
“She’s got a good tumbling and gymnastics background,” Hugo said. “We just had to transfer that skill to the board and throughout the course of the season with her practice here at the pool, and competitions. She likes talking with other coaches and divers to find out things, because I’m not really a diving coach. I know what a good dive looks like, but how to get it there? It’s a lot of trial and error.”
For Monarch, the decision to try out for the diving team came more out of boredom than anything else. With her gymnastics skills and nothing else to do during the fall sports season, she made the decision to give diving a try.
“I thought, I’ve done gymnastics, and I’m not doing anything for this season for sports," Monarch said. "I’m not good at not doing anything. I don’t really want to run, and I can’t swim, so I went with diving. I’m probably going to stick with it.”
And what a season it has been to take up a new sport. With COVID-19 restrictions in place this year, the Mohawks have performed in front of empty stands for much of the year.
Usually, packed meets like the CIML conference meet, and last week’s regional meet at Fort Dodge did not have fans in the stands, and this weekend’s state meet at the Marshalltown YMCA will not be allowing spectators.
While it feels strange to compete without people watching, Monarch thinks that the lack of a cheering and screaming audience may have helped her. Without the crowds, she was able to focus on building up her skills.
“This season has been interesting,” Monarch said. “COVID was something that I definitely wasn’t expecting. It’s weird not having people watching, but I think that helps me do a little bit better, and focus more. It's not as much pressure, especially for a first year.”
Monarch will not be the only Mason City athlete at the event, as the Mohawks qualified seven different events for the big meet.
Kate Edgerton, Aspen Cole, Nia Litterer and Taylor Halverson will compete in the 200 medley relay for Mason City. Litterer, Edgerton, Halverson, and Jenna Braun will also swim in the 200 free relay, with Litterer, Braun, Cole, and Marie Manternach doing the 400 free relay.
Cole will also compete at state in the 200 meter individual medley and the 100 meter breaststroke, with Edgerton and Halverson both qualifying in the 100 meter backstroke.
This will be the fourth and final state swimming meet for Litterer, a senior who goes to school at Charles City. While she is disappointed that her final meet will take place without her family in attendance, the fact that she will have so many teammates alongside her makes the week a lot better.
"We’re doing pretty good," Litterer said. "This is one of the best years we’ve had. There was a lot of girls that made it to state. It’s exciting. I don’t think we’ve had this many girls in a very long time. I still get nervous, I don’t think that would ever go away. I still get nervous, but I love it."
Hugo has been coaching the team for many years, but he still gets excited once the season finally comes down to the final week. With Litterer making her final swim as a Mohawk, and a bright piece of the program's future competing in Monarch, Hugo has a lot to look forward to this weekend.
"Mostly, we’re going to be there to have fun, no matter how we’re seeded," Hugo said. "Always try to knock off a few more tenths. We’ve had some fine races at the regional meet. Aspen in the IM and the breaststroke had big time cuts and Kate Edgerton in the 100 backstroke cut four and surprised everybody. We’re hoping she has a little more surprise left."
Hugo is also excited about Monarch's first state appearance.
"Friday morning, Rosa is going to turn something loose," he said.
Shane Lantz covers sports for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Shane.Lantz@GlobeGazette.com, or by phone at 641-421-0526. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneMLantz.