Quincy swimmer Calloway takes sixth place at state
Quincy swimmer Jackson Calloway finished sixth in the 500-meter freestyle event of the 2A state swim and dive championship meet on Feb. 16.
Calloway had finished second in his heat and seventh overall in the 500-meter freestyle preliminary competition the day before.
Two dozen swimmers participated in prelims, split in three heats, with the top eight qualifying for the next day’s championship heat, the next eight qualifying for the consolation finals and the eight after that going home.
Last year Calloway won the consolation finals in the 200-meter freestyle event at state.
This year, not only did he make the championship heat of his event, known as the A-Finals, but he closed his season with a personal record, of four minutes, 58.52 seconds, improving on his previous PR time of 4:59.51 seconds, which he had set at prelims a day earlier.
“He did fantastic, he did a great job, makes me wanna cry,” said Eastmont head coach Darcy Bruggman, who also coaches Quincy and Cashmere swimmers.
Bruggman praised Calloway for earning a PR less than 24 hours after swimming the same race.
“It’s really difficult to come back after prelims a day ago and drop time again,” she said.
She later added, “He definitely is a competitor and I commend him on how hard he works. He is just an amazing young man.”
Medal around his neck, smile on his face, Calloway called the feeling of earning a medal “amazing.”
“To go into this meet seeded 11th, to go into A-Finals at seventh and to move up and finally get sixth, it’s a great feeling,” he said.
Calloway’s third trip to state was a series of comebacks. In prelims, he came back from third place in the 500-meter freestyle to take second place and finish ahead of his closest pursuer, Sam Walker of Columbia River, by 15/100ths of a second.
The tiny difference relegated Walker to ninth place overall and kept him from qualifying for the championship event, dropping him instead into the consolation finals.
“He can race anybody,” Bruggman said of Calloway at the end of prelims. “Even when he was so tired in the last 100 (meters), he did not let (Walker) catch him, and gave it his all.”
The next day, Calloway mounted another comeback, starting from the back to catch up to two opponents.
“I was just trying to focus on myself, swim my race and see what happened,” Calloway said. “It turned out pretty great.”
Indeed, Calloway returned home with a medal around his neck, a longtime goal of his.
His body was in pain for most of the race, Calloway said, so he had to focus and try to be in the moment and not worry about the aching muscles.
“Just (kept) thinking about the finish, kept thinking that whatever happens in the race, I’m gonna be on the podium and I’m gonna bring a medal back for Quincy,” he said.
Another young man who represented Quincy was Wyatt van der Merwe, a freshman who had qualified for state as a wildcard in the 500-meter freestyle.
Van der Merwe (pronounced van-der-MER-ry) finished in seventh place in his heat with a time of five minutes, 25.07 seconds, and did not qualify for the second day of swimming in Federal Way.
Nevertheless, he impressed his coaches with a strong first effort at state.
After four laps, van der Merwe was in last place in his heat, but as a testament to his endurance, he came back to recapture seventh place and hung on to it for the remaining six laps.
“Just a phenomenal young man,” Bruggman said.
The 500-meter is one of the toughest events in high school swimming, so for a freshman to do it, says a lot about him.
“We love (his) tenacity,” Bruggman said.
Van der Merwe sounded satisfied with his first race at state.
“I felt very good, except in one of my turns, I almost missed the wall,” said van der Merwe, who would have been disqualified if he hadn’t touched the wall.
Seventh place in his heat feels pretty good, said van der Merwe, who finished 21st of 24 swimmers overall.
Calloway, a junior, expressed support for his younger teammate, saying it’s good that he got to experience state as a freshman, same as Calloway, now an 11th grader, did a couple of years ago.
By Sebastian Moraga, email@example.com