Jackson swimming teams take unblemished records into new year

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

JACKSON TWP.  Combine an undefeated start with a renewed appreciation for simply being able to practice and compete and you have a positive beginning of the season for the Jackson swimming and diving programs.

Jackson's Aiden Neuman holds up a fingeer after winning the 200-meter IM during last year's Division I district swim meet. This year, both the Polar Bears' boys and girls teams are 4-0 in dual matches heading into the new year.

Both the boys and girls teams ended the calendar year without any losses on their respective records, but veteran head coach Doug Nist noted that starting the year well is just one part of the equation for the Polar Bears.

"The season is going really well. We're 4-0 for both the boys and girls," Nist said. "The fact is that the kids understand the idea that this is a marathon, not a sprint. We have to just keep doing what we've been doing."

Nist pointed to the upperclassmen on the girls team for their role in the team's four straight wins to kick off the campaign. As an experienced group whose members have been in plenty of big meets, they've been able to bring a business-like mindset to practices and meets.

One moment where their experience came into play was a recent meet against Boardman that saw the Polar Bears and Spartans battle back and forth all afternoon long. By the time the final race of the day was set to begin, the score was close enough that the outcome of that race would determine who won the meet.

"The kids take into account what they have to do, and they just show up and get it done," Nist said. "Our meet last week against Boardman came down to the 400 freestyle and I just told them before the race that if we win this race, then we win (the meet)."

Not only did Jackson's relay team win, it was able to do so by a wide margin as the Polar Bears' other relay team in the race took third place to help power the squad to its fourth win in a row.

The Boardman meet was a big one for the boys team as well, with Nist noting that the Spartans were riding a 30-plus meet winning streak in dual meets. Being able to snap that streak was a momentum builder for a boys squad that is younger overall than the girls team and is succeeding in large part thanks to the freshmen who have joined the roster and given it an immediate spark.

Prior to the season, Nist spoke about how the freshmen were looking to make their mark and contribute to the program. Through four meets, they've done just that.

"One the boys side, our young swimmers, the freshman guys, are swimming really well," Nist said. "I heard Boardman had a 30-some dual meet win streak and they were able to help end that streak."

Not to be lost in the winning start have been the contributions of the divers, who had consistently racked up points. With fewer invitationals and more dual meets overall for the high school swimming scene, getting points from both swimming and diving has made a major impact for Jackson.

"Our divers are really good. They're diving at a high level doing what they have to do to help our team succeed," Nist said.

With meets against Green, Wooster, Dover and Hoover among their remaining contests, the Polar Bears have more tests ahead. Their return to action after the holiday break comes on Jan. 8 against Dover, a meet that will be a home contest for Jackson.

While having most of their meets at home has been nice, Nist said, simply being able to swim has been much appreciated. So far, Jackson hasn't had any meets postponed or canceled, making them a fairly rare team among local schools across all winter sports.

Whether that trend continues hinges on the health not only of Jackson's roster, but those of its remaining opponents. For the time being, the Polar Bears are appreciative of their chances to practice and be together as a team while working toward their next meet.

How the rest of the season will unfold is uncertain, but they've been able to successfully navigate the trek thus far.