CANTON — As his name was announced to the crowded venue and he bowed his head to receive a medal around his neck, Jarret Schaffer found himself in reflection.
It was the first time an athlete from St. Paul had ever swam in a state championship race, which Schaffer did when participated in the 100-yard breaststroke ‘A’ final at C.T. Branin Natatorium Friday night.
His time of 59.85 seconds was good for seventh place and the All-Ohio first team. He joins Geena Freriks as the only two swimmers from the city of Norwalk to earn a state championship medal.
“It’s everything I’ve worked for and hoped it would be,” Schaffer said Friday night. “It reminds you of why you work hard and why you put in long hours, no matter what you’re doing. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
“This is going to motivate me to keep working hard, whether it’s swimming, school or work,” he added. “Good things come to those who work, and this was a great reminder of that.”
Schaffer noted the race itself was a humbling experience.
“I get about 90 minutes of pool time each day, and competed with guys who get four or five hours a day training,” he said. “I was very humbled to be there with seven of the fastest guys in Ohio. Everyone swam a great race.”
After placing third at the district on Feb. 14, Schaffer entered Thursday’s preliminaries as the No. 8 seed out of 24 swimmers. He then reached Friday’s final with the seventh-fastest time (59.58) — then swam to that placement Friday night.
“It was a long, long day for Jarret, as he didn’t compete until about 8 p.m.,” St. Paul coach Stacy Stoll said. “When it was finally time, he had his three teammates there among others cheering him on, which was really nice.”
Stoll said Schaffer was right there for the initial 25 yards, then the sheer speed of the race caught up to him and others.
“Then the third 25 yards is just to get down and the last 25 is simply giving what you got to get it done,” she said. “Then you’re just watching those numbers on the scoreboard until you see his name. It was an exciting moment all-around.”
Schaffer, who will continue his swimming and academic career at NCAA Div. III Ohio Northern University, said he couldn’t have asked for a better final race.
He also competed in the 50 freestyle Thursday night, finishing 24th in 22.78 seconds. Also Thursday, he swam with the 200 medley relay team that included Andrew Schaffer, Ryan Hedrick and Gavin Moffit.
The relay is the first-ever from St. Paul to qualify for state. The quartet clocked in at 1:42.84 in 22nd place.
“I was in the A finals with seven other very fast individuals,” Schaffer said. “I finally got that first team All-Ohio, and not only that, I had my teammates and other friends with me there cheering me on at the end of the lane. You can’t ask for a better end to the season.”
Stoll, who helped Schaffer get his start in competitive swimming seven years ago, said it was special hearing and seeing the moment Schaffer was on the podium.
“Just seeing the excitement and the ‘I made it’ moment was pretty special,” she said. “Between Jarret and the relay, we accomplished something that had not been done before at this level, so it was pretty special.
“But to see him there on the podium, it was smiles and happiness all the way around,” she added.