Sixteen months ago, Jackson Kent experienced the most memorable moment of his stellar high school swim career.
The then-Carroll junior was anchoring the 400 free relay for the Chargers and a state championship hung in the balance. Chasing down Kent were the best that state powers Carmel, Chesterton, Northridge, Zionsville and Fishers had to offer.
And Kent delivered the state title by swimming a marvelous leg with the utmost pressure placed upon his 170-pound shoulders.
“I think about that race the most,” Kent told The News-Sentinel. “But the one I think about the second most is the 200 medley relay.”
Sure, Kent remembers the championship, but he can't let go of that medley relay leg in which he didn't deliver, as Carroll took third in that event. That is the competitor inside of Kent, and that is the admirable trait which has made him The News-Sentinel Boy's Swimmer of the Year for 2017.
In that medley relay race, Kent again was anchoring his team, which is something he embraces with fervor.
“I always love anchoring relays,” Kent explained. “Because I surprise myself with what I can do. I'm so competitive, if I'm in that spot, I won't lose. I won't let myself do that.”
Kent wants the pressure put on him, because his confidence is as high as he is fast in the water.
“Jackson has always been very confident,” veteran Charger coach John Gibson said. “He's always had really lofty goals and was willing to train hard for them.”
Kent's latest “lofty goal” is to make an impact for the University of Missouri over the next four years, which like racing for a state championship, will be anything but easy.
Having advanced to the IHSAA State Finals a dozen times in his career, including a perfect 8 for 8 as a junior and senior, Kent had the speed and intellect (he'll major in accounting at Mizzou) to attend literally hundreds of colleges across the nation, many of which he would be an aquatic star. However, he chose one in which – quite frankly – he'll be just another guy in his lane when he gets to Columbia this fall.
“I never really wanted to go someplace and just be the best and be satisfied with that,” Kent said. “I want to work from the bottom to the top and get there on my own instead of already being there.”
That'll definitely be the case with the Tigers.
Missouri has placed in the top 10 in the NCAA Championships the last two springs. To put into context just how difficult it is to be relevant on Missouri, the Tiger roster had 31 athletes – phenomenal swimmers in each of their own right – last season, but 14 of those swimmers didn't even get to race at the annual Southeastern Conference Meet.
“I'm hoping as a coach,” Gibson said of Kent's future, “by me challenging them with various things over the last year or two, making things harder and more stressful, that has instilled in these guys, like Jackson, they want a (college) program that will continue to challenge them.”
Gibson “challenged Kent throughout his career following his moving to Huntertown from the renowned Mission Viejo (California) club program as a middle schooler.
Kent initially excelled as a backstroker, but in high school swam everything from sprints to the longest race (500 free) to the 200 IM and the 100 fly.
He placed in the state finals in an astounding four individual events (500 and 100 free, 200 IM and 100 fly), and this spring swam such an impressive 100 breast race at the Senior State Meet (club season), that Gibson said “He could have scored at the (IHSAA) state meet.”
That versatility will make him invaluable for Missouri, as the Tiger coaches can plug him into any number of positions in the lineup, and Kent is ready to accept whatever the future holds for him as far as challenges.
“I want to go someplace and get better,” Kent said. “Not just be satisfied with where I am.”
Other members of the 2017 News-Sentinel All-Area Boy's Swim Team include:
• Noah Yarian (Carroll)
• Parker Bull (Carroll)
• Tristan DeWitt (Carroll)
• Jacob Steele (Snider)
• Bryce Warner (Homestead)
• Chase Chastain (Homestead)
• Riley Anderson (Homestead)
• Julian Norman (Homestead)
• Noah Dalton (Homestead)
• Scott Hodson (Homestead)
• Jarrett Miller (Homestead)
• Tim Cater (Carroll)
• Jack McCurdy (Carroll)
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