For the Indian River State Swimming and Diving program, the longevity is almost as impressive as the ability to reload. With the addition of freshman standout Jarryd Baxter this year, the program is poised for another championship run.
As the calendar gets set to turn a new year, Baxter, a South Africa native, left his mark on not only the NJCAA swimming scene, but the national landscape as well in 2018. With four NJCAA records to his name, including three individual feats, Baxter has powered the Indian River State team to another dominant start.
In the midst of arguably one of the greatest runs in sports history at any level, Indian River State has captured 44 consecutive NJCAA men's swimming and diving championships and 36 consecutive women's titles. In his sixth season at the helm of the program, head coach Sionn Brinn has seen plenty of top performers come through his pool, but Baxter's presence has set IRSC's sights on another title.
"Jarryd brings another high-level competitive attitude that creates more competition within the team," said Brinn. "As a result, more members of the team train hard together and everyone improves. His success is a result of the training he and his teammates do together."
Baxter's fast start for IRSC has seen four records within a month's time. On Nov. 9, the freshman set a new NJCAA standard in the 1000-yard free with a time of 9:02.11, a figure that currently ranks 19th among all collegiate swimmers at any level. Baxter's new record broke the previous mark by over 12 seconds.
Baxter added three more records at the Spartan Invitational in Clearwater, FL from Dec. 15-18. His time of 1:46.98 in the 200-yard IM broke a 20-year old NJCAA record, previously set by Polish Olympian Marcin Malinski. On the final day of the invite, Baxter added a record in the 500-yard free with a time of 5:20.72, breaking a nine-year record, before teaming up with Josh Stegen, Tiger Pilkington, and Ruben van Leeuwen to break the 800-yard free relay with a time of 6:29.82. Both Pilkington and van Leeuwen earned NJCAA All-America honors as freshmen last season.
Baxter's decision to attend IRSC has opened endless opportunities after arriving in Fort Pierce, over 8,000 miles away from his hometown of North Riding.
"The opportunities have been endless," stated Baxter. "Not only do a I get to do what I love the most, but I have a huge amount of support from my coaches and teammates. It's also allowed me to find my feet coming into a new environment and I feel I will be ready when the time comes to move up to the NCAA D1 level. This was the right start for me and I am happy that I started it in the NJCAA."
The rich tradition at IRSC was just one factor in a series of opportunities for Baxter to evolve in the pool. "I came to IRSC with an open mind as to how I can achieve my personal best times. The records that I broke are a bonus and I am privileged to have my name on the record board. I chose to attend IRSC because of their winning tradition, the coaching staff, and the team. The team is close and it makes leaving home a little easier."
Currently on a brief holiday break, Baxter and his IRSC teammates will return to competition on Jan. 4 against the University of Tampa. With just over two months until the NJCAA national championship, Baxter envisions a strong finish to the season, both athletically and academically in his first season as a student-athlete.
"The main goal that I have is to make a name for myself in and out of the pool. I hope to continue improving as an athlete and a student here at IRSC and then also when I transfer after graduation."
The 2019 NJCAA Swimming & Diving National Championships will be held March 6-9 at Erie Community College in Buffalo, NY.