As a sophomore, he was an All-American in two events. Now he’s looking to make his mark in state history in the 200 individual medley.
If it felt like Jon Cook burst onto the Class 4A swimming stage a year ago for the Jackson Timberwolves, perhaps coach Drew Whorley is to blame.
“If anything, we probably overthought his state meet itinerary,” Whorley said. “But the nice thing about working with an athlete like Jon is his versatility.”
Two years ago, Cook swam the 200 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke at the state meet. He finished fifth in the breast and 11th in the free.
5 swimmers to watch
James Buchanan, Lindbergh: Class 2A double winner as a junior, won the 200 individual medley and the 100 back.
Ivan Graham, Redmond: Finished in the top four in both of his state events as a sophomore — third in the 100 fly and fourth in the 100 back.
Andrew Boden, Bellevue: Swam a pair of All-American consideration times in his two individual events as a sophomore at state.
Nathan Shao, Bellevue: Finished fourth in the Class 3A 200 free, but later in the meet won the state title in the 500 free.
Daniel Ryaboshapka, Lakeside: Will have the chance to defend his Class 3A 100 back title, won in 51.21 seconds.
Just a year later, as a sophomore, Cook won his first two state titles.
But he did more than that.
Cook enters his junior year coming off a state meet in which he not just won, but posted a pair of All-American automatic times in the 200 individual medley (1:49.55) and the 100 backstroke (56.08 seconds).
Cook has much bigger aspirations this season. He has set his sights on two state records (the overall state record and the Class 4A meet record) in the 200 IM.
“If you look back in the history of this state, on top of that list is a very special swimmer,” Cook said. “But I believe if I swim to my capabilities, I can get the state record.”
Former Lakeside star (and current Stanford swimmer) Abrahm Devine is on top of that list with the overall state mark at 1:47.60, set in the Class 3A meet in February, 2014. The Class 4A meet record has stood much longer — since Andy Lloyd of Mercer Island set the standard of 1:49.30 back in 1988.
Cook came within .25 of a second of the meet mark a year ago, and already this month has gone even faster. Cook finished 12th at the USA Swimming West Junior Nationals held Dec. 7-10 in College Station, Texas, with a time of 1:49.42.
“It was sort of a dry run for meets to come,” Cook said.
Cook swam a full docket at the national meet, including a finish of fifth in what he calls maybe his best event — the 200 breast, with a 1:59.97. He went 1:59.50 during the prelims. That placement added to a 25th in the 100 breast, a 74th and 77th in the 200 and 100 frees.
5 teams to watch
Bellevue: The two-time defending Class 3A champs don’t look as if they have any intention of giving up the title any time soon. Bellevue remains deep and talented heading into the 2016-17 campaign.
Bainbridge: Garrett Waite, Kevin Houseman and Makai Ingalls are all sophomores now. As freshmen, the trio recorded a third-place finish at the Class 3A state meet, two fifths and a sixth as Bainbridge finished second in the team race to Bellevue.
Newport: The three-time defending Class 4A champions are going through something of a youth movement. Sophomore Andres Gonzalez, along with juniors Frank Zhang and Andrew Wang will be joined by senior Henry Newsum.
Issaquah: The Eagles are usually in contention at state as they’ve finished in the Top 5 the last six years.
Mercer Island: Mercer Island won five straight titles from 2007-11, finished second to Lakeside in 2012 and 2013, then won again in 2014. The Islanders were second in 2015 and along with Bellevue and Bainbridge create trio of Seattle-area powers.
Cook swam for his club team, West Coast Aquatic in Texas. He got home and went back to work with his Jackson teammates, preparing for the rest of the high-school season that will culminate on Feb. 17-18 with the state meet at King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
“I really enjoy the high school season,” Cook said. “It’s a stronger focus on team. It gives us all an opportunity to be a teammate, doing a team sport.”
Cook’s presence with the Timberwolves makes Whorley’s job easier, he said.
“You can use guys like Jon to help nurture confidence,” Whorley said. “When others get to be around greatness, They start to think they can be great, as well.”
“I’d like that to be my role,” Cook said. “I love the sound of that, to make others better.”
Even as Cook seeks his own future accolades — and to set himself up for higher endeavors — he wants to be an example for his teammates.
“Nothing Jon does surprises me,” Whorley said. “I put no limitation on him.”
Now as a junior, Cook has begun to look seriously at his college opportunities. While he is coy about specifics, Cook would say this:
“I’ll give you a hint,” Cook said. “I’m looking at older schools in the Northeastern part of the country.”
Which may make this a good time to mention, Cook carries a 3.997 GPA. He has a single A- (the rest As, of course) in a pre-Calculus class as a freshman.
“With the accolades that came to Jon early, he set himself up to swim beyond high school,” Whorley said. “I fully expect him to get up and swim his best times in the big meets.”