WATERLOO | Nolan Heffern has an empty feeling every time he walks through the gymnasium at Decorah High School.
There are no championship banners for boys' swimming among all those for football, baseball and other sports.
Saturday, at the Wahawk Invitational held at the Central Intermediate pool, Heffern paced the Vikings to the team title over host Waterloo West, 515-496.
"We just came in here today to stay competitive and work ourselves hard against the bigger schools," Heffern said. "We weren't really expecting to win as we already lost to West and Newton this year.
"After a win at this meet, we realize we can do good things. We have never won a conference, but I would like to get a banner put up in our gym next to all the others."
Heffern won the butterfly and 200 free, then swam the third leg of the 200 medley and 200 free relays that finished second.
"This definitely will make us practice harder because we know we can compete with bigger schools now," Heffern said. "It is time to get that monkey off our backs."
The Wahawks finished 19 points away from claiming the title, and head coach Mike Hagensick said a little extra effort could have put the trophy in West's case.
"We had a decent day, but I think we left a lot of points out on the table," Hagensick said. "There were some events that we just didn't finish well and we have a lot to clean up right now.
"It was our first meet back from Christmas break and we did have some guys step up. I believe we are heading in the right direction, and I thought Parker McNally was our most consistent guy today."
Kyle Leininger captured a first-place medal in the 500 free for the Wahawks.
Waterloo East is also looking for consistency, and according to head coach Steve Oaks, it is not too far off.
"I thought this was an excellent swim meet and coming in fourth (261 points) was better than expected," Oaks said. "Logan Peters stepped up in the back (seventh) and fly (third) and Tyler Kamp swam very well."
Kamp, a junior, grabbed seconds in the 200 IM and the breaststroke and helpd secure a fifth-place finish in the 200 free relay.
"I felt pretty good about today despite battling a little bit of the flu," Kamp said. "I really think our team did very well as a whole and our relay teams are definitely getting better.
"If we can just keep cutting our times at every meet and continue to improve we will be there at the end."