JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jace Crawford had the ability to change things up for his final season in the swimming pool.
Did he ever.
Crawford, an Episcopal senior and the News4Jax boys swimmer of the year, was already excellent in the 200 IM and 500 free events. He was third at state in both events last year. So why try and tinker with a sure thing?
Simple. Because Crawford had the talent to do so, and in the process, showcased just how good of an all-around swimmer that he is.
This year, Crawford shifted to the 200 free and 100 fly and helped the Eagles to a state runner-up finish behind Bolles in Class 1A, the best showing for the program since 1980. Crawford, who has signed with Florida, looks to keep that growth going with the Gators.
“Next year at Florida, I obviously want to continue success that they’ve grown, NCAAs, SECs, just keep that going and play my role,” Crawford said.
It wasn’t always swimming for Crawford.
He said that he gave flag football and soccer a try when he was younger and was “awful” at both. A desire to compete ultimately led him to the pool and eventually into the River City Swim League.
“Actually, when I was about 7, me and my friend decided to do it for fun,” he said. “I never stopped there. I just kept going with it.”
There was no better display of Crawford’s ability than this season.
Crawford was a dual individual state champ, winning the 200 free (1:37.53) in front of teammate Dale Haney, as well as the 100 fly (48.70). Both of Crawford’s times earned automatic All-American honors.
Crawford swam the third leg of the 200 medley relay team, which finished state runner-up, and swam the lead leg of the state champion 400 free relay squad. Crawford’s lead off in the 400 free relay final was more than a second faster than his time in the prelims.
It helped Episcopal shave off more than 5 seconds from its prelim time and edge Bolles in the event. Crawford’s ability to be competitive at any stroke is what made him such an asset for the Eagles, said coach Martin Zubero.
“He is extremely versatile,” Zubero said. “His weakest stroke he can still make finals at the state meet and probably get top five. So, when you have somebody that’s that versatile that really adds a lot to your team. … The last five years that I’ve been here, he’s just gotten better and better and better.”
News4Jax recognizes the top athletes of the fall sports season this week. Swimming selections are based heavily on state series times and finishes.
Swimmer, School, Classification
Chance Conde, Fletcher, Sr.
State champ in the 500 free with All-American consideration (4:29.76). Anchor of the state champ 200 free relay team and the fourth place 400 free relay team. Fifth in the 200 free.
Rian Covington, Atlantic Coast, Jr.
Had a 20.72 in the state finals to earn All-American consideration and take fourth. Also 12th in the 100 fly and anchor of the 200 free relay team, which took seventh. Third leg on the ninth place 200 medley team.
Jace Crawford, Episcopal, Sr.
Area’s top swimmer was state champ in two individual events. Dual automatic All-American honors. Swam a 1:37.53 in the 200 free and a 48.70 in the 100 fly. Lead leg of the state champ 400 free relay team that earned All-American honors.
Elisha Dees, White, So.
Finished seventh at the state meet in diving with a 419.75.
Dale Haney, Episcopal, Jr.
Swam an All-American consideration time of 1:39.26 and finished state runner-up. Fourth in 100 free. Swam second leg on the state champion 400 free relay team, and anchor leg on the state runner-up 200 medley relay team.
William Jones, Stanton, Sr.
Had a 1:50.64 in the 200 IM to earn All-American consideration as state runner-up. Even better in the 100 fly, where he was state champ and earned All-American honors after a 48.25 in the prelims.
Jackson Kirk, Bolles, Sr.
Finished third in the 100 free with a 45.91. Also swam the anchor leg of the state runner-up 400 free relay team and the third-place 200 medley relay team.
Braeden Knight, Baker County, Jr.
Had a 49.71 in the state finals to finish runner-up, with the time qualifying for All-American consideration. Finished ninth in the state in the 50 free.
Ansen Meyer, Bolles, Jr.
State champ in the 100 breast in 56.33, which earned All-American consideration. Fourth in the 50 free and swam the second leg of both the third place 200 free relay team and state runner-up 400 free relay team.
Rafael Ponce de Leon, Bolles, Sr.
Earned automatic All-American honors after a 4:27.81 in the state meet to place third in the 500 free. Third in the 200 free with All-American and swam on the 200 free and 400 free relay teams.
Larry Salls, Fletcher, So.
Third at state in the 50 free with a All-American consideration of 20.76. Ninth in the 100 free. Led off the state champion 200 free relay team, which also earned All-American consideration. Also lead on the fourth-place 400 free relay team.
Caden Staggard, Episcopal, Sr.
Third place in the 100 back (50.75), anchor on the winning 400 free relay team and lead on the runner-up 200 medley relay team. Also a fifth in the 100 free.
Bianti Danaj, Bolles, Sr.
Samuel Florey, Fletcher, Sr.
David Gapinski, Creekside, Jr.
Jack Hattery, Bolles, Sr.
Nicholas Lee, Bolles, 7th
Conner Lowery, Providence, Sr.
Zachary Mercer, Fletcher, Jr.
Dominic Miller, Creekside, Jr.
Julian Smith, Episcopal, Jr.
Nicholas Spillers, Creekside, Sr.
David Walton, Bolles, So.
Austin Wheeler, Bishop Snyder, Jr.
Louis Body VI, Bolles, So.
Jakob Brougham, Nease, Jr.
Kyle Casiple, Paxon, Sr.
Andrew Davis, Bishop Kenny, So.
Jacob Douberly, Creekside, Jr.
Mehdi Elaoufir, Stanton, Fr.
Aidan Henry, Creekside, Jr.
Harrison Herrera, Bolles, So
Gage Hulbert, Mandarin, So.
Danis Khizriev, Bolles, Sr.
Jonathan Kim, Nease, Jr.
Tomohiro Nozaki, Bolles, So.
Jacob Pishko, Bolles, Jr.
Nicholas Tayag, Bartram, So.
Ralph Weakland, Episcopal, Fr.