As he takes his position on the starting block and stares into the glassy water ahead of him, Malachi Webber, 10, of Creston is giving off the cool confidence of a seasoned swimmer.
Webber, who started swimming three seasons ago, has had a successful swim season with his freestyle stroke, for which he has qualified for state, and now a multi-state regional meet for the first time in his short swim career.
To qualify for the state swim meet March 3, Webber gave it all in the last event of his final meet, where his time in the 100-yard freestyle was 1:18:12.
“He just went and swam out of his mind,” said Nicole Webber, Malachi’s mother and swim coach of the Southern Prairie Stingrays.
Malachi’s time qualified him for the state swim meet by half a second.
At state, held at the MidAmerican Energy Aquatics Center in Des Moines, Malachi placed 10th in the same event with a time of 1:16:79, which qualified him for regionals.
Nicole said her son has come a long way since he first started swimming.
“He started out doing it in the summer when they don’t have any meets and decided he really, really liked it but, he was still nervous about competing,” she said. “That was a big challenge that first year, but by the end of the year, he had kind of fallen in love with it and found his niche.”
Malachi said he’s inspired by his teammates and friends, Noah Adams and Gretchen Hoepker, who challenge him in the pool.
“I enjoy the competition and going up against other swimmers ... seeing how much they’ve practice and seeing how good I am up against the other competitors,” said Malachi.
Malachi said he hopes to follow the strokes of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and become as good of a swimmer as he is.
“He inspires me. I mean, I have his Wheaties box in my room. I have newspapers about him. He’s one of my heroes,” said Malachi. “I honestly want to try to make the Olympics or at least get into the tryouts. Maybe even become a professional swimmer – I don’t know where my life is going to go.”
Malachi said his goal is to medal against one of the largest teams in the state – Greater Des Moines. And to do this at regionals, he has a strategy.
“One thing I really struggle with is kicking. I fear it’s going to take away all my energy in the whole event, so I don’t kick that much. In the 50s I’m fine, but in the 100s, I kind of want to conserve my energy until the last 50,” he said.
The 2019 Regional Swim Meet will be held on March 16 and 17 in Des Moines. The current record for the Boys 10 and Under 100 freestyle, which Malachi hopes to beat, was set by Dylan Moffatt of Black Hawk County (59:62) in 2013.
When competing, Malachi said the most important characteristic to have is a good attitude.
“The biggest thing is to keep pursuing ... don’t get shot down,” he said. “If you don’t medal in something, it’s OK. Keep going and you might get it next year.”
To learn more about the Southern Prairie Stingrays, visit southernprairieymca.com.