NCS swimming: Analy’s Jon Knox ready to rock


Analy senior Jon Knox poses with teammates underwater during Tuesday's practice at Ridgway Swim Center. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Analy senior Jon Knox poses with teammates underwater during Tuesday’s practice at Ridgway Swim Center. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

If you follow Redwood Empire high school swimming closely, you may be surprised to learn of the meet records Analy senior Jon Knox established at the Sonoma County League Championships last Friday. It isn’t hard to think of Knox as a record-setter; he’s generally considered the top male swimmer in the area this year. The specific marks that fell are what might catch your eye.

Sure, Knox shattered the all-time SCL Championships records in the 200-yard freestyle (1:40.62) and the 100-yard backstroke (50.75). Those are his events. But on the same day, he also claimed the top spot in the 50 free (21.38) and the 100 free (46.56) — and he didn’t even swim those lengths individually. He got the records swimming relay legs for the Tigers.

“He really could qualify in almost every event,” Analy swim coach Lehla Irwin said. “The breaststroke is his weakest. He did go a 1:59 in the 200 IM (individual medley) this season, and that’s faster than the league-champion time. His 100 (butter)fly is faster than the league champion. He has top times for a lot of different strokes.”

See photos from Knox’s swim practice here

There’s a reason Knox doesn’t swim more individual events. He’s zoned in on the 200 free and the 100 back. It is those races he will try to conquer this Friday and Saturday at the North Coast Section Swimming Championships at Concord Community Pool.

“I think he’s really going after both titles,” Irwin said. “I don’t think he likes to talk about it, but I think he is.”

He will be joined by other top Empire swimmers, including Petaluma’s Riley Scott, Windsor’s Micaela Luders, Montgomery’s Jenna Bauer and Maria Carrillo’s Piper Brockley. Montgomery’s Tanner MacDonald is among the divers competing Thursday.

In a way, Knox has been groomed for this moment his entire life. Both of his parents were elite NCAA swimmers, father Ken Knox at Tennessee and Indiana, mother Linda Stinson Knox at USC.

But that doesn’t mean Knox relies on the gene pool when he gets in the swimming pool. Just the opposite, in fact.

“He’s really like a stickler for his technique, really works on technique hard,” Irwin said. “A lot of kids don’t. Especially with high school boys, they tend to muscle through things. He’s really good about his form and fine-tuning it. If something is wrong, he really wants to correct that error so he’s most efficient swimmer possible.”

Knox has no shortage of resources in Irwin, his parents, and his club coaches at Neptune Swimming.

“When I first joined the sport, my father kind of hammered it in, the way to go fast and do things right is really to perfect your technique,” Knox said. “It’s also something my club team does great. Tony Scott and Dan Greaves are stroke geniuses. I ask them questions all the time, what I could do better here and here, and they have answers.”

In the pool, minute alterations of form can knock vital seconds off a kid’s time. For example, someone noticed this year that on Knox’s freestyle pull, his hand angled outward instead of inward. He changed the stroke by, he guesses, five to 10 degrees, and it made a significant difference.

Knox also paid more attention to his diet as a senior, cutting back on the fast food.

It was all in the service of shaving his 200 free time to 1:37, his main goal coming into the season. Last year Knox finished eighth in that event at NCS, with a time of 1:40.17. (He also finished fifth in the 100 back at 49.79.) He felt he could do better. Indeed, Knox hit 1:38 in December at the Winter Junior Nationals. He’s hoping that the strong competition at the section meet will push him to 1:37.

“NCS is a pretty big meet, a really fast meet,” Knox said. “It’s an honor to go there. … It gets you in a racing mentality. It helps you go fast when you know other people there are so strong.”

Swimming can seem like a solitary activity, but it’s also a team sport, and Irwin is quick to praise Knox as a teammate, describing how he’ll pump up teammates in close meets.

“I absolutely love high school swimming,” Knox said. “This year a lot of first-time people came out (at Analy). It was thrilling. I was so proud of my teammates for how well they did — younger guys like (junior) Jake Gibbs, (sophomore) Spencer Perdue and (sophomore) Luke Ressler. I think Luke joined the Sebastopol Sea Serpents after his first high school season, and he’s been killing it this year”

Knox will have several teammates on hand at the NCS meet. It’s a big moment for him, but it won’t be his ultimate rung of competition. Knox is following his mom to USC this fall.

Irwin said: “He’s got a longer-term goal than the average high school swimmer.”

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