JACKSON TWP. A small, but ambitious group of Jackson swimmers and divers made a big splash at the recent Division I state swimming and diving meet.
With four swimmers each from the boys and girls teams and one diver in the Jackson contingent, the Polar Bears were outnumbered by many teams in Division I meet at C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton, but behind a strong effort by multiple competitors, the boys team was able to score 60 points and place 13th in the state.
Needless to say that such a strong finish despite the odds being against them left the Polar Bears excited in the wake of the meet.
“Since there were only five guys competing at the state meet, they were ecstatic to place 13th overall at the state meet,” second-year head coach Megan Burrows said.
Leading the way at the state meet was the boys 200 freestyle relay team, which set a new school record with a time of 1:24.69, a mark good enough to earn team members Jason Tondra, Dylan Currier, Aiden Neuman and Ted Kinney All-American status.
It was a strong all-around day for Kinney, who also swam in the 400 freestyle relay and the 50 freestyle, where he finished eighth overall.
“Ted had an amazing state meet. It was a good meet to end his high school swimming career,” Burrows said. “The team's performance was overall spectacular. I was so proud of everything all the athletes achieved over the course of the season.”
Kinney will trade in his Jackson purple and gold for an Edinboro University (Pa.) swim cap next season as he looks to continue his progress on the college level, but the state meet was a final chance to compete alongside teammates he’s known and swam with for years.
Along with Kinney, sophomore Aiden Neuman showed not only the ability to compete well with the best in the state, but also promise for the future as he set a school record in the 100 backstroke with a time of 51.23, good for 10th place against a talented field in which all nine swimmers who bested him were either juniors or seniors. Neuman also swam the 200 individual medley and was 16th with a time of 1:55.99.
Still, it was his effort as part of the 200 freestyle relay that stood out most to his coach.
“I think the most exciting race was the boys 200 freestyle relay swimming at finals,” Burrows said. “Going into finals they were seeded seventh and ended up placing fifth overall. Each one of those four boys all had personal best times, which led that relay to break a school record and becoming All Americans.”
The girls team was represented by the 200 medley relay team of Janine Murphy, Amanda Dial, Sloan Hawkins and Christina Paliyannis, while Zach Schering was the lone Jackson diver to qualify for the state meet. The girls relay placed 23rd with a time of 1:49.18.
The meet served as a capper for a season in which four school records were broken prior to the meet, as Neuman set a new mark in the 200 individual medley (1:53.61), Janine Murphy set one in the 100 backstroke (57.29), the girls 200 medley relay team set one with Murphy, Dial, Hawkins and Paliyannis swimming a time of 1:47.07 and the 400 freestyle relay team that also included Hawkins, Dial and Murphy setting its own record with a time of 3:35.23.
Add in the two records broken at the state meet, a Federal League season that included just one loss and plenty of memorable moments along the way and the Polar Bears concluded their campaign with plenty to smile about and motivation to put in an offseason of hard work as their underclassmen turn their focus toward bettering their results next season.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB