SIDNEY — When it comes to swimming, it’s been said the Southwest District hosts some of the best competition in the country. That’s fine with the Sidney Yellow Jackets’ boys team. They’ve been outnumbered most of the season.
Just seven swimmers strong, the Yellow Jackets recently won the Valley Division title and finished second overall in the Miami Valley League. And on Saturday the team competes in six individual events at the Division I district championships. That’s the most individual events the Yellow Jackets have qualified for since coach Mary Jannides started the program in 1982.
The boys also qualified in two relay events. On the girls team, two relay teams wait to see if they will swim after qualifying as alternates.
Senior Badin Brewer qualified in the 50-yard freestyle and 100 freestyle. Senior Jaden Humphrey advanced in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke. Freshman Jarrett Payne qualified in the 100 freestyle and 200 individual medley, finished a team-best third in the 200 IM and fourth in the 100 free.
Junior Jahvon Lloyd joined Brewer, Humphrey and Payne on the 200 free and 400 free relays.
For the girls, senior Logan Frasure, junior Addison Payne and sophomores Olivia Keller and Lillyen Watkins advanced as alternates in the 200 free and 400 free relays.
The D-I girls district championship starts 10:30 a.m. Friday at Miami University. The D-I boys meet follows at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
“The Southwest District in Ohio is one of the toughest districts in the United States. I’ve been around long enough to know,” Jannides said. “You have teams here where the kids will go to the YMCA nationals and the state finals. The state finals are usually faster than the Y nationals. For us to even make it to district is like any small team making it to state. If we make it to state, that is a crown on the head.”
Paul Miller was the last Sidney boys swimmer to qualify for state in 2007, when he won the 50 free state championship. Payne likely has the best opportunity to represent Sidney again. His best time of 46.65 in the 100 free ranks No. 3 in the Southwest District and No. 8 in Ohio. His time of 1:56.18 in the 200 IM is No. 4 in the district and No. 14 in the state.
The boys’ 400 free relay time of 3:14.14 ranks No. 5 in the district and No. 11 in the state. The 200 free relay’s time of 1:28.63 is No. 5 in the district and No. 12 in the state.
“These boys had not tapered at all going into sectionals,” Jannides said of the practice of reducing exercise to improve performance. “The kids did a great job. Just a super job.”
Also competing on the boys team this season were senior Tyler Overholser, sophomore Andrew Bonifas and freshman Owen Deam. Three seniors graduate this spring, leaving Jannides with four returning swimmers next season. The girls team has 14 swimmers on the roster, which was bolstered by a solid group of sophomores.
“They have improved immensely. The girls are going to be strong next year,” said Jannides, who is assisted by Brennan Brewer and Lori Humphrey. “As far as the girls, I’ve got good talent coming back next year. The boys? I have to recruit boys because we’re going to be depleted. When those seniors depart I’m depleted.
“This pandemic has really hurt us. I also coach for the Y team and we’re down. People are just not swimming. You can see people coming up (through the age groups) and what I see is not very much.”
The Yellow Jackets are still excelling with the numbers they have. The boys and girls teams combined to break seven school records this season. For the boys, Payne established new records in the 200 free (1:43.33), 200 IM (1:56.18) and 500 free (5:04.39). Humphrey set the 50 backstroke record (24.86). The 200 medley relay with Humphrey, Brewer, Lloyd and Payne set a new mark (1:40.40) and the same swimmers did the same in the 400 free (3:14.14).
The girls 200 free relay of Frasure, Keller, Payne and Watkins set a time of 1:50.46 to break a record set in 2012.
“They’re hard working. People don’t realize how hard these swimmers work and practice,” Jannides said. “I’ve had football players who asked to get on the swim team. Several years ago I had a big 6-4 sophomore football player come out. He wanted to swim because he loved to swim. After the first practice I asked him, ‘Well, how’d it go?’ He said he’ll never complain about two-a-days in football again. He said that was the toughest workout he’s ever had.”
While many teams practice in the morning, after school and evenings, the Yellow Jackets’ practice time is limited to one hour every day from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. They practice at the YMCA in Sidney.
“The only pool in the county,” Jannides said.
“When I started the team back in 1982, I made the pool schedule for the Y. I knew the dead time and said let’s get the high school in during that time,” Jannides said. “I tried (to have practice before school) back in the 1980s when my own kids were swimming. When I found out they were sleeping in first period I said that’s it, we’re not doing the morning session anymore.”
The top two swimmers from each event automatically advance to the state championships in Canton. Sixteen at-large qualifiers based on times from all four district meets also advance.
Spectators are not permitted at the district meet. It can be viewed at www.twitch.tv/miamiaquaticcenter.