All-Empire boys swimming: Jon Knox quieted his doubts

Analy senior Jon Knox poses underwater with teammates during practice with the Neptune Swimming club. Photo: Crista Jeremiason/ The Press Democrat

Analy senior Jon Knox poses underwater with teammates during practice with the Neptune Swimming club. Photo: Crista Jeremiason/ The Press Democrat

It’s tempting to say that Jon Knox was born to be our Male Swimmer of the Year. The recent Analy grad definitely had a genetic head start when it came to aquatics. His father, Ken Knox, was a top NCAA swimmer at Tennessee and Indiana, and his mother, Linda Stinson Knox, had an equally stellar career at USC.

But that explanation would be unfair to Jon, who didn’t really start swimming competitively until eighth grade, later than many kids, and never felt pushed by his parents.

“There were a lot of years of him doubting himself,” said Knox’s club coach, Dan Greaves of Neptune Swimming. “He knew he had the pedigree, he knew he had the body. He just didn’t quite understand why when he said ‘I want go fast,’ why it didn’t work. You spend a lot of time on the process of the sport. When you drop a half-second and you hover around that time for a while, a lot of time goes into that half-second.”

Knox dropped plenty of half-seconds during his time at Analy. By the time he wrapped up his high school career at the North Coast Section Swimming and Diving Championships in May, he was claiming the section title in the 100-yard backstroke and finishing third in the 200 freestyle.

And he was doing more than that for Analy. Knox assumed the leadership mantle passed down to him by older teammates like Nate Kuhn and Rebecca Baxley, and in turn became a guiding force for the Tigers’ younger swimmers.

“I got to hang out with people I normally wouldn’t hang out with at school. I got to broaden my horizons to some really great people who I probably wouldn’t have met,” Knox said.

“It was really a pleasure to be around them, and it made my senior year a lot of fun,” he added.

Knox will compete at either the junior nationals at the end of July or the senior nationals in early August — he wasn’t sure which when he spoke to The Press Democrat — and then it’s on to USC, his mother’s alma mater, where he will help break in the Trojans’ brand new pool.

Knox said he’ll be happy to swim whatever event and distance his college coaches ask him to swim. He certainly showed his versatility this spring, setting Sonoma County League meet records in the 50 free and 100 free, both while swimming relay legs.

Greaves has his own ideas on the subject.

“I kind of hope they extend him up to 500 (yards). He has such a beautiful freestyle,” Greaves said. “If he can get a little more power and confidence, I think he can be amazing at that event. Because he’ll never be a 250-pound sprint guy. So he has to be a middle distance swimmer.”

Wherever he focuses his attention, Knox is sure to attack the task with an engineer’s precision.
“He can feel things,” Greaves said. “He moves his left arm a half-inch to the outside, and he can feel that right away, where for other kids it probably takes a few weeks or months, and then you have to film them and show them what you mean. A few weeks ago, I gave him a snorkel I found in my house. He put it on and, boom-boom, his freestyle went from awesome to amazing. He just had to keep his head still. That’s not coachable.”

Other skills are coachable — or at least learnable. And Knox has figured out how to put in consistent effort during his time with the Neptunes and at Analy. Even the repetitive work that has chased many an athlete away from swimming.

“This morning, he did 100 backstrokes on the minute,” Greaves said recently. “Last year, no one here was doing 100 freestyle (strokes) on the minute. I’m having to get better as a coach because of this guy — and that’s fun.”

SWIMMER OF THE YEAR
Jon Knox, Analy, Sr.

FIRST TEAM
Alema Fitisemanu, Ukiah, Jr.
Shannon Fong, Maria Carrillo, Sr.
Stefan Keller, Maria Carrillo, Jr.
Ryan Johnson, Cardinal Newman, Sr.
Tanner MacDonald, Montgomery, Sr.
Jack Murphy, Analy, Fr.
Takahiro Shimokobe, Casa Grande, Sr.
Curtis Shinn, Technology, Jr.
Kenneth Shinn, Technology, Fr.
Henry Steiner, Casa Grande, Jr.
Yao Gian Wang, Rancho Cotate, Sr.

SECOND TEAM
Landin Ambrosini, St. Helena, Jr.
Chase Hatcher, Ukiah, Soph.
Roe Klein, Ukiah, Jr.
Aric Lang, Rancho Cotate, Jr.
David Luo, Technology, Jr.
Jack Niles, Maria Carrillo, Jr.
Christopher Olson, Maria Carrillo, Sr.
Charlie Schroeter, Cardinal Newman, Fr.
Cliff Tai, Maria Carrillo, Sr.
Daniel Virtue, Maria Carrillo, Soph.

COACH OF THE YEAR
Kara Myers, Maria Carrillo

Phil Barber can be reached at Phil.Barber@pressdemocrat.com.

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