Junior swimmer glides past competition

Brandon Mankoff, Sports Editor

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Junior Jake Shapiro swims butterfly during a practice on Jan. 8. Shapiro swam a 1:46.24 in his main event, the 200-yard freestyle, earning him the 21st fastest time in the state this year as of Jan. 24. Photo by Chloe Carroll

The stakes were high for junior Jake Shapiro last year as he approached the sectional final, one of the most important meets of his swimming career. Before the meet started, Shapiro’s mom and dad approached Kirk Ziemke, boys swimming head coach, to inform him that their son may not be able to swim.

According to Ziemke, Shapiro had a 102 degree fever. He did not know if Shapiro would be healthy enough to compete. However, after a few warm-up laps, Shapiro was ready to race.

“I think it was very selfless,” said Ziemke. “He did it for himself, but he also did it for his teammates. … It was just a super exciting race, and it really showed his character as a person and as an athlete, that, you know, when he’s sick as a dog, that he still trusted himself as an athlete.”

Shapiro’s performance was nothing short of excellent, according to Ziemke. In the 400-yard freestyle relay, Shapiro’s team was behind by around two seconds going into his final 100 yards until he came back at the end to beat Rolling Meadows, helping the 400-yard freestyle relay team qualify for state. He also qualified with the 200-yard freestyle relay team and individually in the 200-yard freestyle.

According to Shapiro, he skipped eighth grade to pursue more academic opportunities and made the varsity team as a freshman, at the age of a typical eighth grader.

Ziemke said although Shapiro was very young at the time, he made a huge impact.

“Jake was our leadoff in the 200 medley relay as a freshman at sectionals, and he fought his way to get onto that team,” said Ziemke. “[He] really got us off to a good start, and we ended up dropping six seconds in that event, and it broke the school record by over two seconds.”

Shapiro competes in a variety of events, but he is best at the 200-yard freestyle, in which he placed 19th at state last year with a time of 1:43.17 and is currently ranked 21st in state as of Jan. 24. 

Shapiro holds multiple Glenbrook North all-time top 10 records including first in the 200-yard medley relay and second in the 200-yard freestyle, Ziemke said.

Shapiro said his best meet this year has been against Glenbrook South in a very competitive battle on Dec. 8.

“At the GBS [meet], there was an electric atmosphere, especially because I [knew] most of the people on the GBS team,” said Shapiro. “So racing friends is just so much fun, so that got me kind of amped up. I went a [personal best] in the 200 [individual medley], I went a [season best] in the 100 free and I also split a pretty fast time [in] the 400 free relay.”

Senior Ethan Schonfeld said Shapiro leads by example and is serious during practices and meets but also has a “goofy” side to him.

“He had this thing … where he would always scream ‘let’s go’ at the top of his lungs, and it became a running gag,” Schonfeld said.

According to Shapiro, he also swims on Glenview Titans Aquatic Club outside of GBN, and this past summer his team went to the NCSA Summer Junior National Championships. He made the cut for this meet in the 100 and 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard fly, but his times fell just short of making the Speedo Summer Junior National Championships. He said he was still happy with his times, especially in the 200-yard freestyle, which was the ninth fastest in the country for 15-year-olds.

Shapiro said he has some big goals for swimming in the future.

“Ideally, I would like to swim at Harvard because they are going to be a top 20 team this year, … and then I think going to Olympic trials would be the end goal for my career,” Shapiro said.

Ziemke said Shapiro has made a very big impact on the team and is one of the best swimmers to ever go to GBN.

“He’s one of the best swimmers to go through [GBN], and I think he is one of the best swimmers I have ever had,” said Ziemke. “I’ve had three guys [when I coached at Addison Trail] that [placed] in the finals at the state meet, and [they] all were All-Americans and All-State swimmers, and I think Jake has the potential to be right up there with those three guys.”

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