JACKSON TWP. As Northeast Ohio’s winter weather remains icy and frigid, the swimming and diving season is heating up for the Jackson Polar Bears.
The boys and girls teams are both unbeaten in Federal League competition and have a combined 11-1 overall record, putting the Polar Bears in the driver’s seat as they chase league titles and postseason success.
With more big meets coming up, first-year head coach Megan Burrows likes the way her teams have responded to such events up to this point in the season.
"Any time we swim in a bigger meet, it gives the kids a chance to get up and race their opponents. The kids thrive on getting up to race," Burrows said. "Our invitationals and relay meets have gone very well. We have had multiple time drops and multiple personal best times."
Burrows pointed to big efforts by swimmers such as Sean Reem (200 freestyle), Ted Kinney (50 freestyle), George Kondrev (100 butterfly), Dylan Currier (100 backstroke) and the 200 and 400-yard freestyle relay teams as the driving forces behind the boys team’s 6-0 start.
Veterans such as Reem and Kinney entered the year with established track records for success, but there have also been solid contributions from new faces as well.
The first-year head coach pointed to Adriana Culp, Hannah Sucharzewski, Hanna Sausaman, Lauren Addis, Brandon Beyman, Maximus Betscakos, Logan Webster and Luke Gorris as some of the swimmers who have made the most of their first chance for sizable time on the varsity level and their performances have provided a boost to the team as a whole.
As the boys look to defend the Federal League title, continued success from both veterans and underclassmen will be key. The girls team has a different challenge, trying to recapture the league title is the primary mission after Hoover edged the Polar Bears out for the crown one season ago.
Led by senior Leanna Myers, who turned in her best effort of the season recently at the Ned Reeb Invitational meet in the 100 breaststroke, the girls have set themselves up for a dramatic finish to the regular season as they appear poised for what could be a title-deciding meet with Hoover later this month.
According to Burrows, what remains of the regular season is a time to balance success in the present with making sure that everyone is ready for the postseason.
"The team has been working hard all season long and are ready to see the end of season results," Burrows said. "Both the girls and boys teams just need to trust the process, be confident in their swims and their season workload."
As the teams tapers its workload, it has an eye on the postseason.
During the program’s recent run of success under former head coach Matt Ziders, winning sectional titles and sending multiple swimmers to the state meet were common and Burrows, who served as an assistant for Ziders the past three seasons, wants to see more of the same in her first year at the helm.
"Some of our goals between now and postseason are to get as many district and state qualifiers that we can," Burrows said. "We also want to end the season with a really good standing in the Federal League by doing the best we can."
Warmer temperatures may not be in the immediate future for the Polar Bears or the rest of the area, but if they can heat up the pool with continued success, winter should be a little more bearable.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB