Nordgren turns swim from a burden to lifestyle

Jason Nordgren won three state titles in swimming, but that almost never happened as he wanted to quit the sport around eighth grade.

“They (my parents) told me I had to play another sport if I quit swim, and I never had an idea,” Nordgren said. “There were several years where I didn’t want to swim, and that could have ended my career if I went through with it.”

A senior and captain of the Bainbridge High School swim team, Nordgren won three gold medals at the 3A WIAA State Championships last month. He won the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 20.85 seconds, 100 free in 45.75 seconds and was part of the 400-free relay with a time of 3 minutes, 10.4 seconds.

Nordgren, who started swimming around first grade, said one of his biggest challenges was staying motivated. He never enjoyed waking up at dawn to practice or practicing sometimes twice a day. Even though it was a challenge, it also became a huge reward for him at BHS.

“Going into freshman year, my goal was to make friends since I did not have many friends,” Nordgren said. “My best friends I made through swimming.”

Nordgren began to love swimming with his friends so much that he began playing water polo when it was not swim season. He began doing year-round water polo, including playing for Bainbridge, his sophomore year. Then, Nordgren would switch to swim for that 3½ month high school season.

As Nordgren began to develop in both sports and make friends, the pandemic hit.

“COVID made me lose six months of swimming, and when we returned it was weird,” Nordgren said. “We weren’t able to do actual practices, and we couldn’t do any events. I lost a whole year and slowed down my progression.”

When he returned his junior season, he made his debut at the state championships. Nordgren finished 10th in the 50 free with in 22.14 and 12th in the 100 free in 49.16. Shaving that much time off those sprint races in one year was impressive. So much so that he knew he had a chance to compete for a state crown. But in the prelims, he only finished fourth.

“Going into the second day, I was worried some guys were not trying their hardest. So when I touched the wall and saw my name first, the first thing was shock, and I jumped out of the water,” he said.

Shortly after winning three gold, Nordgren looked back at his eighth-grade self who nearly quit the sport. “When I won those three titles, I could not believe that I started to not like this sport,” Nordgren said. “I forced myself to do it and hard work paid off.”

Since winning at state, he has changed his mind about swimming in college. He hopes to either swim for a college or play water polo on a club team to continue having fun, making friends and staying in shape. “This is a huge part of my life now,” Nordgren said. “I am glad this is the circle I am in, and I definitely feel like I made my freshman self proud.”