A little slice of sports history happened Saturday in Jackson.
“This, to my knowledge, is the first premiere boys swimming and diving meet in Jackson, Wyoming, so congratulations on being here,” Jackson Hole High School swim and dive coach Jim Jenkins said into the microphone at the Teton County/Jackson Recreation Center.
The Broncs have had a girls’ swim and dive team for decades. That program won 10 state 3A championships under Jenkins before moving to the 4A level in 2016. Jenkins stepped down in 2018 but returned last fall to lead the girls to a fourth-place finish at state in November.
Then, when the Teton County School Board voted in October to add boys’ swim and dive, something every Wyoming high school had except Jackson, Jenkins stepped up to coach the boys, too.
And Hunter Scott came along with him.
The team’s lone senior finally got his home meet during Saturday’s Jackson-Lander Scramble, ducking his 6-foot-5 frame under the outstretched arms of not only his own teammates, but those of the visiting Lander Valley team as well, during his “senior recognition.”
It was the only home meet on the schedule for the Broncs in this inaugural season. Scott spent the past three seasons commuting to Sublette County to swim for a 3A team that combines Pinedale and Big Piney high schools.
“It feels nice to be noticed like that,” said Scott, who was joined by his parents, Matt and Jennifer, and younger brother Conner, a member of the freshmen boys’ basketball team.
A day earlier, Scott finished first in the 200-yard freestyle in a season-best time of 1 minute, 57.5 seconds at the six-team Rock Springs Invite. He also took third in the 100-yard freestyle in 52.26, another season-best time.
Jackson finished sixth with 48 points at the Rock Springs meet, finishing behind Green River (352.5), Evanston (342), Rock Springs (308), Kemmerer (165.5) and Lyman (128), but this is a season for gaining experience and building a foundation for the future.
“Hopefully, there will be more [home meets] next year,” said Scott, who wasn’t feeling particularly well on Saturday, experiencing some nausea and the same fatigue as his teammates after swimming in Rock Springs and then arriving home late Friday night.
Scott took second in the 200-yard individual medley in 2:10.77 and the 100-yard backstroke in 1:03.59 at the meet, in which the two schools were divided equally into Orange and Green teams. But he clearly was not happy with his results.
“He did tough it out and finished all of his races, though,” coach Jenkins said. “That showed a lot of mental toughness that will come in handy the rest of the season.”
Saturday’s home meet with Lander Valley, which has won a remarkable 26 straight 3A boys swim and dive titles, was a chance for the young Broncs swimmers to compete side by side against one of the state’s best programs, and also compete on the same team.
While most of Jackson’s swimmers were on team Orange, including Scott, with several Lander swimmers and divers, Broncs freshman Ricardo Villanueva, junior Isaac Zarate and sophomore Gio Nava joined team Green, which beat team Orange 74-67.
“I think it’s really cool,” Jackson sophomore Joseph McJunkin said of the first-ever home meet. “We get to show our parents and friends and family how much we’ve improved since we started. So it’s really cool to see that validation from people we hold so close to us.”
McJunkin broke 30 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle for the first time on Friday in Rock Springs, then did it again on Saturday, finishing in 29.68 to win his heat for team Orange and place seventh overall. McJunkin also finished first in his 100-yard breaststroke heat, and sixth overall, in 1:28.23.
Another young swimmer who impressed Jenkins over the weekend was sophomore Nava, who was competing in his first meets for the Broncs. Nava swam the 50-yard freestyle in 28.86 on Friday and the 100-yard freestyle in 1:06.81, placing 18th in both races.
“Gio has a lot of natural talent,” Jenkins said. “It’s really impressive that the first time he swam the 50 in a meet he [got] a 28. That doesn’t happen very often.”
Jenkins also cited the accomplishments of freshmen Bill Robinson and Dante Palacios.
“We are coming into the last half of the season now,” the coach said. “This is when things really get fun. We have conference [meet] coming up in three weeks and state in five. I am really excited to see how far everyone can go.”
The Broncs swim this weekend in meets at Lander on Friday and Worland on Saturday.