Swymeler continues success in first Show-Me State Games appearance

Saturday, July 28, 2012 | 10:14 p.m. CDT; updated 10:44 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 28, 2012
Johnathon Swymeler, a 14-year-old who has only competed in six track meets, won the Show-Me State Games 400-meter dash Saturday at MU's Walton Stadium. In addition to the gold medal he won in the 400m, Swymeler also won a silver medal in the boys' 200-meter dash.

COLUMBIA — His name is Swymeler.

The hodgepodge of consonants can be found at the top of Tri-County Junior High School's records in four different track events.

On Saturday at the Show-Me State Games, Johnathon Swymeler became a gold-medal winner in the boys 14-under 400-meter dash and a silver medalist in the 200-meter.

And there will be more, Swymeler said. He knows because he's come this far in just five months.

That's how long the 14-year-old has been running.

Swymeler jumped into track and field for the first time in February, when he joined the middle school team. As he stretched the potential in his legs, the school's records in the high jump and 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes fell.

"It kind of surprised me," said Swymeler, who will be a freshman at Tri-County High School this fall. "I knew I’d be a sprinter and not a distance runner, but I didn’t know I’d be that good.”

The Swymeler swagger instantly won over the coaches' confidence. In the next meet, they marked him down for the 100m, 200m and 400m dashes and saw those records broken.

At that point, though, Swymeler was merely the big, unique name in a tight-knit community with few alternatives. He was one of just three members of the Tri-County Junior High School track team, part of a school district of 200 students in a town of 500 people.

Swymeler said the success within his school was nice, but he needed some more convincing. It came by his third competition in a meet called the Worth County Tiger Relays. His 200m time of 25.19 seconds broke a meet record that had held up for 26 years.

That's when he said he discovered running was the most important part of his life.

"I’ve always kind of liked track, so I just kind of picked it up," Swymeler said. "But I started enjoying it more after I started running more and going to more places and stuff."

"We’ve all taken enjoyment out of it, seeing him discover this talent within himself and then work to improve it," his father, Bobby Swymeler, said.

Johnathan Swymeler went all the way to the state AAU Junior Olympics sectional meet in Joplin last month. His season ended there. The top five advanced to national competition, and he finished sixth, just 0.08 seconds short of the time he needed to move on.

"It kind of sucked, but it kind of made me happy," he said. "It was my fifth track meet, but I made it this far. It was kind of a joy, but it was kind of bittersweet.”

Swymeler ran the best 400m dash time of his life Saturday at the Show-Me State Games, clocking in at 55.44 seconds, a full three seconds better than the other seven competitors. He said he hopes to get that time down to under 52 seconds next season, and that his goal is to reach the AAU Junior Olympics national meet that he just missed out on last month.

It's just a goal at this point, set by a 14-year-old runner with only six meets on which to base his expectations.

"I feel like this is the thing I’ve been most committed to so far," he said. "I’d try stuff and I’d kind of like quit it or it’d just be something I’d do in my free time. With this, I love it and I do it as much as I can."

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