ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Having the competition look up to them after finishing first or near the top of an event isn’t unusual for Hillsboro swim team members John Vineski and Robert Jost.
Swimming comes naturally to both athletes.
But having their teammates look up to them for their achievements out of the water is an honor both young men have earned and a responsibility they take seriously.
“They’re showing the younger kids that hard work pays off and diligence gets rewarded,” said Matt Vogt, swim team head coach.
As both Vineski and Jost look forward to their senior year of high school this fall, their summer has been spent as have the previous seven summers-working to perfect their swim strokes while capturing numerous event titles in the process.
Vineski, son of Mike and Valerie Vineski, is especially proficient in the freestyle and butterfly. Jost, son of Lynn and Donna Jost, said the breaststroke is his premier event.
Vineski’s swim team debut occurred 10 years ago.
“The swim team coach saw me swimming in swim lessons and asked if I’d come back the next day to swim,” Vineski said. “And I’ve been here ever since.”
Jost has been involved with swim teams for 12 years.
“I got started because my sister was involved,” he said. “I began swimming at a really young age in Nashville, so I was able to swim year round when I was little.”
Starting at such an early age isn’t unusual, but continuing their participation this long is somewhat unique.
But don’t tell either of them swimming isn’t cool.
“I’d say the main reason I still enjoy swim team is because I like the competitiveness and I like getting better and improving my times,” Vineski said.
“It’s also a great way to stay in shape,” Jost added. “Swimming is just something I’ve been fairly successful at and I haven’t seen any reason to quit.”
Vogt said their success is a product of hard work and individual talent.
“They’re very good swimmers and I’d really like to see them swimming at the next level,” Vogt said. “I think they could do very well in the U.S.S. (United States Swimming).
“They dominate in our league, but they’re very strong and they work very hard at it and it pays off for them.”
Vineski’s success is a product of numerous factors, including his coaches-Vogt and Mary K. Humber-and Jost.
“I give the credit for my success to my coaches and just working hard at what I do and having fun when I do it,” Vineski said. “Without my coaches and their hard workouts, I guarantee I wouldn’t be as good as I am.
“And quite a bit of how good (Robert and I are) because of each other.”
“That’s a big competitive edge,” Jost agreed. “But it’s a very friendly competition.”
Vogt said the ability of Jost and Vineski to push each other is a definite advantage.
“I don’t think they’d be as good as they are if they didn’t push each other,” Vogt said. “In practice it’s always fun to watch.”
But for all the success Vineski and Jost have had in the pool, perhaps even more impressive is their ability-and willingness-to mentor the younger swimmers on the team.
“We have 63 kids on the team this year, and Mary K. and I could not do our second practice without John and Robert’s help,” Vogt said. “We’d never be able to do our job as well as we do and be able to teach all the strokes we need to teach.”
Vineski and Jost said they relish the opportunity to spend more time at the pool and teach younger athletes.
“I just enjoy having fun with the younger kids and helping them improve,” Vineski said. “When they look up to us, it makes me feel good and it lets us know they appreciate what we’re trying to do for them.
“We can teach them a lot of things and not just in the pool,” he added. “We really try to keep them on the right path and not let them stray.”
Jost said those lessons include perseverance and drive.
“We really try to teach them a good work ethic and how to stick with things, even if it doesn’t come easily,” Jost said. “I think the younger kids notice how hard we really do work.”
It’s a good thing both swimmers enjoy the added attention from their proteges because like it or not, the youngsters are watching, Vogt said.
“I hope they realize they’re role models for the younger swimmers to look up to and say that’s what they want to be when they grow up,” Vogt said.
“(Robert and John) have stuck with it a long time and I hope that influences everyone on the team from the 13-14 year-olds to the 8-unders.
“I hope the young kids watch them and realize swimming is a sport they can do and have fun with for a long time,” Vogt added. “The responsibility they’ve taken on is a great lesson as well. Both of them volunteered to help us, so that willingness to help is also a great trait for the young kids to learn.”
Jost said knowing those young eyes are watching his every move adds pressure, but he welcomes it.
“Sometimes, when I’m about to start a race, I’ll see all the young kids standing on the side cheering for me, but that’s a positive pressure,” he said. “It’s actually a pressure driving me forward and not weighing me down.”
Vogt said the time Jost and Vineski spend assisting the younger swimmers is entirely voluntary.
“We pretty much turn John and Robert loose with a couple of lanes in our second practice with the 12-and-under kids,” Vogt said. “We just give them a little direction and they take over from there.
“Some people just relate to kids and some don’t-these two definitely have that gift,” he added. “I think they really have good teaching abilities, they interact well with the kids and, in turn, the kids listen to them and try to live up to what they expect.”
Another thing the pair hopes to impress on the kids is to have fun while competing.
“If you’re on the swim team, you’ll make lots of friends and have a ton of fun,” Vineski said. “If you’re not having fun, there’s no point doing it.”
Jost said swim team teaches that everyone needs to be involved, which is a valuable lessons.
“We’re like a big family,” he said. “We all know each other and we know our strengths and weaknesses. But it’s also a really good way to improve yourself and your self confidence.”
Vineski hopes to continue swimming after high school.
“I’d like to swim in college,” he said. “If it’s not competitively, I’d still swim in intramurals.”
Jost’s plans include a semester of voluntary service for his church followed by attendance at a Mennonite college.
Both swimmers look forward to next summer and their final year of swim team. They already know they’ll miss the camaraderie.
“I’ll really miss the competitive nature of swim team and not being able to swim, but I’ll come back and help coach,” Vineski said. “I just love to swim and I like watching all the kids grow up and improve their times.”
Vogt said the gifts both swimmers have are unique.
“I think these two just love swimming and they’re obviously gifted,” he said. “We can teach anyone to swim, but to be this good and this fast takes a special gift.”
Vogt knows his job has been facilitated by his two eager volunteers and thinks their future may involve teaching.
“I can’t say enough about how good they are and how much their help is appreciated,” he said. “I think both Robert and John have a future working with kids.
“I’d like to see them stick around and maybe take over this program one day. I think that’s something that’s in their future.”
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL