Courtesy: Chris Repak
SwimSwam Note: Chris is the father of Jayden Repak.
In the words of Michael Phelps, “If you want to be the best you have to do things that other people aren’t willing to do.” This was the challenge Jayden Repak, a senior captain for Steinbrenner High School in Lutz, Florida, faced at the 2023 FHSAA 4A State Championships in Ocala Florida.
Jayden had an amazing morning prelim taking 1st in both of his individual events, the 50-yard freestyle (20.77) and 100-yard breaststroke (55.86) He was also to be the lead-off swimmer in the ‘A’ final for the 200 free relay. During finals, his first event was the 50 free, where he had a slow start and despite an attempt to rally over the last 25, he touched 2nd in 20.81, missing the win by a tenth of a second and hurting his hand in the process.
When climbing out of the pool, he felt the sharp pain in his hand, went to his knees, and knew this was not good. The Steinbrenner coaches’ Kristyn Fada and Kim Harkness saw his middle finger and realized he must have broken it and possibly had ligament damage. They immediately took him to the pool medical staff, and they said he should put it on ice for the swelling and they could only tape up two fingers if he wished to compete any longer. At this time, Jayden was not able to swim, and the coaches had to shuffle the relay around and put in an alternate on the 200 free relay.
Lucky for the Steinbrenner coaches, Jayden’s club coach, Kevin Rosepapa of the Berkeley Barracudas, was there watching many of his swimmers and offered to assist Jayden so they could continue with the meet. Jayden was hurting, his parents worried, and it seemed like this was unfortunately going to be the end of his last state finals.
It was then Coach Kevin called Jayden over, looked at his hand, and told him to go to the far lane of the outside warm-down pool. He told Jayden to do 200 skulls on his back and think about everything he had done in his life to be a state champ. Then he borrowed someone’s kickboard and had him breaststroke kick up and down the pool for about 400. Then he had him do breaststroke drills to see what he could and couldn’t do.
Coach was trying to keep him from being around everyone else. He did not want Jayden to get distracted and did not want the athletes and parents to get in his head. The whole time he was at the far end of the pool, he kept telling Jayden to visualize the win.
Minutes before the 100 breaststroke final, before Jayden walked into the building, Coach Kevin told him to think about everything you have done your whole life to get to this one moment… Everyone will remember you as a legend, as the one who won the state championship with a broken finger.
The other athletes in his heat were kind of surprised to see Jayden getting ready as many knew of what happened after the 50 free. All were good sports, just asking if he was okay and ready to go. Once on the block and they said ‘Take your marks’, Jayden went down to get set and realized he wouldn’t be able to use his left hand to pull off the block, he would have to use all legs for this start. After the first turn, everyone in the stands realized Jayden was not giving up and was still competing for the win, and the crowd was louder than it had been all night. Jayden went a best time (55.66), broke his high school record and accomplished his original goal of being a 4A State Champion.
Jayden went to the doctor for X-rays on Monday, finding out that the finger was broken and the ligaments were strained, but pinning was not necessary. The doctor said to keep it immobilized and it would heal in a few weeks.
During all the chaos, before Coach Kevin got involved, his parents just consoled him and said if he wanted to just leave, they would; if he wanted to just try and do the swim legally and get the 8th place medal, that was OK too. But Kevin is an old-school coach who redirected and focused him; not for Steinbrenner, not for Berkeley Club, not for the parents… he did it for Jayden. Coach Kevin knew with his training, his drive to compete, and some mental motivation he would not lose. Swimming for a coach who has high expectations is contagious and sometimes you just need to be reminded of it… now that’s coaching!