In the early afternoon of March 12, a few hours prior to the MHSAA suspension of winter sport events, East Lansing High School senior swimmer Matias Jimenez and his Trojan relay teammates had just finished preparing for what they thought would be a trip to the Division 2 state meet at the Holland Aquatic Center.
Jimenez was the lone individual qualifier among the Trojans, having earned his way by bettering the state qualifying mark in the 200 freestyle with a 1:48.73 clocking at the CAAC Blue league meet Feb. 29 at St. Johns. A total of seven East Lansing swimmers – including seniors Anthony Medei, Mitchell Seitz and Henry Sparrow, junior Josh Bergdolt, sophomore Hugh Hankenson, and freshman John Swords – would comprise relay foursomes in both the 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle races.
“Things are looking good,” Trojan head coach Brian Post said shortly before 1 p.m. that day. “The boys are looking forward to the state experience, and we believe we’re ready to go.”
At that point there had been restrictions put in place to limit the number of spectators at what typically is a very well-attended, and raucous, gathering.
“It will be different, much quieter than normal,” Jimenez said. “But that’s okay. We’re happy to be going and ready for the challenge. Personally, I’m looking forward to swimming against guys who can swim faster than me, to see how I measure up, and to see how fast I can push myself.”
Up to that point, Jimenez had enjoyed a productive fourth season as a member of the Trojan swim team. At the aforementioned CAAC Blue league meet he finished second in the 200 freestyle and third in the 100 freestyle (:50.22). He also swam on the runner-up 200 freestyle relay (with Medei, Sparrow and Bergdolt) and the third-place 400 freestyle relay (with Medei, Bergdolt and Seitz).
Jimenez led the team in Decathlon power points, which Post uses to measure his fastest swimmers in nine separate events throughout the season.
“Matias had a very good season,” Post said. “It’s a shame that the boys couldn’t get that state experience before we had to shut things down. One day we’re making plans for the finals and the next day they’re cleaning out their lockers and headed home. It’s certainly not what we had envisioned.”
Jimenez learned to swim at age 2 and has been competing since third grade. His older siblings Fermin (ELHS class of 2012) and Mariana (2016) were part of the Trojan swim team in high school, and Matias hopes to continue swimming at the club level once classes start in the fall at the University of Michigan, where he intends to study kinesiology.
“I’m still learning to get better in each stroke,” Jimenez said. “There’s always room for improvement. I think the work we did as teammates made the season what it was. We helped each other get better. With the number of younger swimmers we had this year, next year should be even better.”
For Post, the disappointment of the sudden end to the season left no room for celebration.
“I did see Matias on the day the kids emptied out their lockers, but we weren’t able to sit down with the team before we all went our separate ways,” Post said. “No banquet, no time to hand out awards, no real closure.”
Only the anticipation of what might have been a fitting end to a successful season.