On the first day of his summer vacation this week, 12-year-old Jameson Punzel’s still had his alarm set.
A half hour after it went off, Jameson and his mother, Jen, were at the Rockport Pool in Janesville.
Mothers and sons enjoying the Rockport Pool is nothing unusual. Being there from 7 to 9 a.m., five days a week, is.
During those two hours each morning, there are no cannonballs, splashing friends or other activities kids enjoy at the Rockport Pool during the summer. Jameson, along with 12 to 15 fellow members of the South Central Swim Team, are there to work in the 50-meter long pool.
“I’m there from 7-9 to train, and then I might just swim for fun with my friends,” he said.
This afternoon, Jameson is competing in the Central Zone Open Water Championship in Lake Andrea near Kenosha. Swimmers in three age groups (11-12, 13-14 and 15-older) will compete in 1K, 2K or 3K races in the lake.
Jen is an assistant coach for the South Central Swim Team that is based in Janesville and coached by Charlotte Davies. Jen and husband, Shane, have a cabin in northern Wisconsin, which put their two sons, Jameson and 11-year-old Sawyer, near water from almost birth.
“We’re both into camping and the outdoors,” Jen said. “They were around water at an early age, so it was really important to us that our kids knew how to swim.
“Jameson immediately took to the water. He understood how to manipulate himself in the water, and he has been swimming competitively since he was 8.”
Sawyer enjoys swimming and kayaking but has gravitated toward the traditional ball sports.
Jameson showed his passion was the water at an early age.
“I think I was 4,” he said of his earliest memory of being in water. “I was at my mom’s friend’s pool, and I just jumped in the water.”
“He jumped off the diving board,” his mother clarified, in a tone that indicated it might not have been the wisest maneuver she has ever seen.
“He was just one of those kids that would walk up to the side of the pool. He had no fear of the water.”
When the Punzels are at their cabin, Jameson enjoys swimming to the deepest part of the lake and diving down to pick sticks from the bottom at depths of 15 to 20 feet.
Today’s event is the first open-water competition for Jameson, although he did complete last year’s Door County Triathlon with Jen. The open-water competition is different because there are no lanes or bottom markings.
Swimmers are side-by-side and head-to-feet apart. In Jameson’s 2-kilometer event, competitors swim 230 meters out to the first marker, then go diagonally left for 400 meters toward the shore, and then take another left along the shore line for 370 meters to the stating point. Jameson will do two circuits of the triangular-shaped course in his race and should finish in about 21 to 26 minutes.
Jen hopes Jameson’s participation will attract more young swimmers to open-water competition.
“Everybody wants to be the fastest sprinter,” she said. “But that really isn’t for everybody. That’s what’s good about swimming. There’s something for everybody.”
For the rest of the year, Jameson will compete in pool events as part of the South Central Swim Team, which has members from Janesville, Milton and Evansville and other area communities.
Jameson swam qualifying times for last year’s state meet in 13 events as an 11-year-old in the 11-12 age division.
His favorite event is the individual medley where competitors use four strokes—the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. The butterfly is his favorite stroke.
And his least favorite?
“I really don’t like the backstroke that much,” he said. “I don’t like all the water that goes up my nose.”
But as long as he is in the water, Jameson Punzel is not going to complain. Getting up at 6:30 a.m. during summer vacation says it all.