LENEXA— Senior Jordan Jenkins knew that he had reached the pinnacle of his swimming career standing with his teammates in the Taj Mahal of Kansas high school swimming Friday evening.
Four members of the Junction City swim team traveled to Lenexa to swim in the pristine pools of the vaunted Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center for the 6A State Swimming and Diving Championship meet and while none left with medals or impressive podium-reaching finishes, the Blue Jays and their coaches were thrilled by both the destination they’d reached as a team and the journey that they took to get there.
“This is probably one of the biggest accomplishments of my life, getting to go to state,” Jenkins said. “I’ve only swam for three years so getting here is huge for me. I don’t have any more words to describe how great a feeling it was to get here and swim faster than I’ve ever swam in a meet before.”
The four Junction City swimmers (Jenkins along with fellow senior Nate Green, junior Gabe Lamb and freshman Creytin Sanner) turned in 100-percent personal best times in the three races they competed in (one individual race and two relays) including a near-school record breaking performance in the 200-yard freestyle relay.
The Blue Jays finished 17th overall in the 200-yard medley relay after being seeded 21st with a time of 1:48.08 and then went on to finish 15th overall in the freestyle with a time of 1:35.13 after coming into the meet seeded 24th in the state in class 6A which just .06 seconds short of breaking a school record that’s stood for over two decades.
“I think it went almost as well as it could’ve gone,” Jenkins said. “I think the first race we were a little nervous about being at state and the fact that we were in the very first heat of the day. It was nerve-wracking, especially for me since I swam first in our 200-yard medley relay. But the second race we all swam as fast as we’ve ever swam before since we were chasing that record and we were so close to breaking it.”
Putting the bow on a great day for Junction City was Lamb who was the Blue Jays lone individual competitor at the meet. In the 50-yard freestyle, Lamb finished 17th overall in class 6A with a time of 22.91 which was seven spots higher than where he was seeded.
It’s been a long road getting here for all of the Junction City swimmers. Covid-19 set doubt into this season long before it started and practices began. Despite a few hiccups and quarantines along the way, the Junction City swim team is a perfect example of how perseverance and effort pay off.
“When we started the season, we didn’t know if we’d have a full season,” head coach Beth Schlesener said. “We didn’t know if we’d have 10 meets or if we’d be able to have a state meet. We didn’t know what league would like. I think our league and KSHSAA did a really good job of setting standards and we followed them. We had a quarantine early in the season but we’ve been pretty good about things since then. Going through all of that and then making it here… these kids worked hard. They wanted it and were hungry and we came and got three PR’s. It’s a great feeling as a coach.”
Lamb will lead a strong class of returners next season, a group that Jenkins could not be more pumped for.
“I’m so excited for the guys that will still be here next season,” Jenkins said. “People like Gabe Lamb, who’s probably our best swimmer, keeps dropping PRs (personal records) time-after-time-after-time. Creytin Sanner got to state as a freshman which is insane and I know he’s going to do amazing things in the breaststroke because that’s his thing and just barely missed qualifying in that as well. There’s lots to be excited about.”
Schlesener also mentioned swimmers like Adrian Duarte whose progress in his first year of competitive swimming will surely improve as the team heads into the offseason. Losing two four-year seniors is tough but the foundation has certainly been laid for even greater success further down the road.
“The future is exciting,” Schlesener said. “The freshmen that we had this year were phenomenal… There’s just a lot to look forward to.”