Carroll swimmer ‘versatile’ in his greatness Jackson Kent on verge of a pair of state titles.

People outside of swimming mostly view the sport as an individual one. However, that isn’t accurate at all.

From a summer club dual meet to the NCAA Championships, swim meets tabulate team scores at the end and give the winning team recognition.

The sport is indeed a team competition; it is simply comprised of individual events. And having a swimmer as valuable – and versatile – as Carroll High School senior Jackson Kent isn’t just nice for a coach and his team, it is invaluable.

Kent will lead a contingent of Fort Wayne-area swimmers, including a lot of Charger teammates, to today’s IHSAA Boy’s State Swimming and Diving Finals at the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis.

The prelims are at 6 p.m., with diving beginning Saturday at 9 a.m. That will be followed by the finals (top 16 participants from the prelims) at 1 p.m.

The fact that Kent qualified in the maximum allowable four events (two individual races and two relays) for the fourth straight year is impressive, but how he did that is even more so.

The University of Missouri recruit won his eighth individual sectional championship (the maximum possible) last week at the IHSAA South Side Sectional in a race he had never competed in at the sectional level (the 100 fly).

“That versatility,” Carroll coach John Gibson said of what made Kent so special, “he is so strong in anything and everything.”

Kent has advanced to the State Finals eight times in individual races, but those races have changed based on the needs of the Carroll squad.

In his first two seasons, he advanced in both the 200 IM and 500 free races, but as a junior, he dropped the longest race (the 500 free) for a sprint event (the 100 free). This year, he has switched from the 100 free to the 100 fly.

“We had a couple of guys in the 500 free and we didn’t need him so much,” Gibson explained of the switch a year ago. “We needed a 100 freestyler.”

So after finishing ninth in the state as a sophomore in both the 200 IM and 500 free (it is a testament to the Carroll program that it “didn’t need” the ninth best distance swimmer in the state), Kent tried the 100 free and placed seventh.

Gibson also explained that the move in races allowed Kent to get more rest prior the meet’s final event, the 400 free relay.

That strategy paid off because Kent anchored the state championship relay with a split of 45.47, a mere .4 seconds ahead of runner-up Carmel, and that helped the Chargers finish fifth as a team overall.

This season, however, Gibson and Kent decided to take a long-term approach to the season and have him train for the fly race, which is a stroke that he will be competing in (at the 200-yard level) at Missouri.

“He wanted to get his 100 fly time down to be more of an asset to his college team,” Gibson said.

But it also helps Carroll, which graduated 2016 100 fly state champ Ryan Huizing, who is now swimming for Yale.

Despite the fact that Kent hasn’t competed at the state meet level in the 100 fly before, he is still seeded fourth heading into today’s races, and he has very legitimate shot at winning the race.

“He wanted to do the 100 fly,” Gibson said, “and I wanted him to do whatever he was comfortable in and most confident in.”

Kent is seeded second in the 200 IM this year, so he could indeed be a dual state champ, and he has proven to be the aquatic version of manna from heaven for Carroll.

He grew up in southern California competing for the national age group power Mission Viejo Nadadores team (47 national titles, 22 world records and 20 Olympic medals earned by Nadadores swimmers and divers), before his father’s job resulted in a move to Fort Wayne in the seventh grade.

Kent had the physiological blessings to evolve into a great swimmer, but that is only half of the story of his success.

“He has kind of a Michael Phelps build,” Gibson said. “He has a big torso and is pretty long limbed. He is probably 6-3.”

And …

“He’s a good leader,” classmate Parker Bull said of his friend, “but he does so in a quiet manner. He leads by example. He is very humble and people follow his example.”

Both Bull and Gibson cited Kent’s strong work ethic and that has played a significant role in him winning every single race (16 of them) that he ever competed in at the South Side Sectional. He closed that chapter of his career by setting six sectional records and has been a state finalist four times individually.

After finishing ninth as a sophomore in both races, he took seventh (100 free) and sixth (200 IM) last year.

As a member of the Chargers’ 200 free relay, he has finished seventh (sophomore) and fourth (junior), in the 200 medley relay he helped Carroll to a third-place finish (junior year), and in the 400 free relay, he has been part of teams that finished 15th (freshman) and 14th (sophomore) before winning his first state title last year.

“He is a lot of fun when it is time to have fun,” Bull said. “But when it is time to get serious, he is serious.”

If he can (and he will) make the finals in all four events this weekend, that will bring his total to 14 finals appearances in 16 races. <br>

<i> Follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis. </i><br>

<center> IHSAA SWIMMING &#38; DIVING FINALS </center><br>

at Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis.

Prelims: 6 tonight

Finals: 9 a.m. Saturday

AREA COMPETITORS

200 medley relay: Carroll (Noah Yarian, Parker Bull, Kent, Tristan Dewitt); Homestead (Trey Cooley, Bryce Warner, Chase Chastain, Riley Anderson); Snider (Jacob Steele, Zachary Hyde, Jacob Miller, Nicholas Torres); Bluffton (Walker Leas, Tyler Reed, Gabe Ehle, Eli Kitt).

200 free: Julian Norman (Homestead), Noah Dalton (Homestead), Matt Webber (Columbia City).

200 IM: Kent, Steele, Warner, DeWitt, Tim Cater (Carroll).

50 free: Anderson, Miller, Scott Hodson (Homestead).

Diving: Jarrett Miller (Homestead).

100 fly: Kent, Chastain, Cater, Yarian, Wes Hembree (Homestead).

100 free: Dalton, Hodson, Anderson, Parker Bull, Webber.

500 Free: Jack McCurdy (Carroll), Warner, Ryan Devito (Columbia City).

200 free relay: Carroll (DeWitt, Carson Bull, Parker Bull, Kent); Homestead (Norman, Hodson, Anderson, Dalton).

100 back: Steele, Yarian (these two swimmers are the top two seeds), Cooley, Chastain, Leas, Aaron Fix (Columbia City),

100 breast: Parker Bull, DeWitt, Jordan Keuneke (Carroll).

400 free relay: Homestead (Norman, Hodson, Warner, Dalton); Carroll (Carson Bull, Cater, McCurdy, Yarian).