SUBSCRIBE NOW
$1 for 3 months
SUBSCRIBE NOW
$1 for 3 months

Jackson sending dozens to state swimming meet

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

JACKSON TWP.  A new setting paced the way to a more familiar one for the Jackson Polar Bears.

As the Northeast District Division I swimming and diving meet shifted to the Spire Institute in Geneva for this season, it represented a departure from the familiar confines of the Cleveland State Natatorium for the precursor to the state tournament. The change didn't seem to phase the Polar Bears, who are once again sending a large contingent to the state meet at C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton.

"It went well ... we had eight girls who qualified for swimming and two divers who dove on Thursday, so 10 girls total and 17 boys with four divers," Jackson head coach Doug Nist said. "All in all we had a pretty successful weekend with two divers, (senior) Zach Schering and (junior) Vinny Traganza qualifying for the state meet on the boys' side, along with the 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay both qualified and (senior) Aiden Neumann qualified in the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke."

Neumann has been a fixture at the state meet over the past few years and is making his fourth and final appearance there. The senior sprint specialist had the 13th and 18th-fastest times in the 100 backstroke and 50 freestyle, respectively, among state qualifiers. He and Schering are the only Jackson competitors with state meet experience, although Nist noted that he also swam in the state meet in his own high school career.

Schering and Traganza rank 11th and 12th, respectively, among the 25 divers in the boys 1-meter diving field. For those who have been to the state meet before, their voices figure to be helpful for the reason to the Jackson contingent leading up to Canton.

"I think it will help ... Aiden obviously has been there and this is his fourth trip to the state meet. We have three freshman swimmers so this will be their first experience there and any time you can help them, it's good," Nist said.

While the numbers will go down in terms of participants from the district meet to the state meet, Jackson will still have a solid group on the deck at C.T. Branin Natatorium.

It's a venue they know well, but it doesn't look quite the way it used to due to recent renovations that left the facility closed for a long time. Since it just reopened, none of the Polar Bears – Nist included – have seen in person yet. A new gutter system is among the changes, but swimming close to home figures to be nice nonetheless.

The state meet comes after Jackson had its first meet of the season with spectators at districts. Spire Institute allowed one ticket per competitor so parents, friends or family members could be in the stands to cheer on their athletes. The meet divided the day into two sessions, with girls in the morning and boys in the evening.

Still, energy was good according to Nist, and the results suggest that having support in the stands and on the pool deck gave the Polar Bears a boost.

For the girls, junior Janine Murphy had a solid day with top-five finishes in the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke. A tough field made it tough to advance, but Nist was happy with how all 10 girls who took part in the district meet performed. For all of the Jackson competitors who are headed to Canton, the trick is moving past the thrill of reaching the state level and preparing to swim their best against the best competition.

"That's the tricky part because most of them were fully tapered for (districts), so you just try to maintain that as best you can," Nist said.  "The numbers go down a bit as far as team size and there's a lot of excitement that goes into qualifying, so you just want to be ready to go."

Chasing a podium finish and a state title is a top goal for any high school athlete regardless of sport, but at the end of an unprecedented and most unusual season, any success at the state level is likely to carry an extra layer of achievement and appreciation. As the year winds down, the Polar Bears are out to punctuate their campaign with one final exclamation point against the best Ohio swimming and diving have to offer.