On Saturday, two Wesco rivals will step to the state championship starting blocks as the favorites in one of high school swimming’s most difficult and demanding events.
They are Jon Cook of Jackson and Kamiak’s Henry Limm, and they are ranked 1-2 in the state in the 200-yard individual medley, which combines the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.
And if Saturday’s race plays out as expected, “I would expect a good battle for sure,” said Kamiak coach Chris Erickson. “They’re both very talented in all the strokes.”
Cook, a sophomore, has the edge on paper over Limm, a senior, with a best time this season of 1:53.64 compared to Limm’s 1:55.53. But as Jackson coach Drew Whorley pointed out, “None of that matters when you climb up on the block and have to go do it.”
Cook and Limm have become acquainted in recent years, with their paths crossing at various swim meets in high school and elsewhere. Though not close friends, they have a cordial relationship and likewise a shared understanding of the other’s talent and determination.
Speaking of Cook, Limm recalled that “one of my teammates last year said, ‘He knows how to win. And if you trash talk him, he just kind of laughs and then he beats you.’ … The biggest thing I see in him is his confidence. He knows he can swim fast and he definitely has confidence.”
Between the two, Cook said, “There’s a lot of mutual respect.”
Cook won the 200 IM by more than two seconds at the district meet, “but I think (the state meet) will be a lot closer,” Limm said. “Last week he kind of pulled ahead me on each of the walls, and I’m resolving not to let that happen again.
“I think he’s working even harder, too, but I plan on being right next to him the whole way. … It’s going to be close to the touch,” he said.
“No question, (Limm) is going to go as fast as he can,” Cook said. “And after we finish I’ll make sure that we shake hands. And I’m thinking I’ll likely be next to him on the podium.”
Cook and Limm are also the standard bearers for their teams at the state meet, which begins with qualifying on Friday. Cook will also swim the 100 breaststroke, where he is seeded first, and Limm will double in the 100 butterfly, where he is likewise seeded first. Both will also swim two relays, though Whorley and Erickson have yet to tip their hands which relays their athletes will swim.
Jackson, coming off last weekend’s district team title, is taking aim at a top-four finish at state. The Timberwolves placed 10th a year ago, and based on a projection of points from top times this season “top four is realistic for us,” Whorley said.
“It’s really about us continuing to do what we’ve done all season,” he went on. “We were undefeated in the regular season and we won districts. And one thing the guys have had all season is that they compete really well, and they do it with pride and with confidence.
“It’s a luxury for a coach to have the type of talent and depth that we do with this group. It’s a really coachable group, and it’s about as much fun as a coach can have on the pool deck. … We’ve been training all season for the state meet. They’re just hungry, just chomping at the bit. They just want to go.”
And on a team of standouts, Whorley said, “it’s all being led by Jon Cook, who has already broken four school records this year. He’s a coach’s dream. He has an amazing attitude and an incredible technique … and his attitude and approach are contagious within our team.”
Kamiak, meanwhile, will be trying to crack the top 12, though that might be difficult, Erickson acknowledged. “Team-wise we’re a little sparse,” he said.
Most of the Knights’ individual points will likely come from Limm and from diver Jared Christner, though Kamiak will be hoping to score relay points, too.