On Oct. 13, a day after breaking a national age group (13-14) swimming record, Higley (Gilbert, Arizona) freshman Keaton Jones spent his 15th birthday going to a haunted house with friends.
It was another Olympic trials qualifying time in the 200-meter backstroke, but another day to enjoy being a kid.
“He didn’t talk about (the record) anymore,” said Elizabeth Jones, Keaton’s mom. “He’s really grounded.
“He loves swimming. But he’s really humble and sweet. I don’t think he knows how good he is. None of us saw this coming.”
Jones, who stands 6-foot-3, appears to be the next big thing to hit Arizona high school athletics and in the fast lane to stardom.
Heading into Thursday’s Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Division II state swimming and diving championships, Jones already owns seven of the possible eight individual school swimming records.
The only reason he doesn’t have all eight is because he has yet to swim the 50-yard freestyle, which he said he might do this week at state.
At the October Long Course Challenge three weeks ago, Jones broke Josh Zuchowski’s short-lived national age-group 200 backstroke with a time of 2 minutes, 00.28 seconds. Before Zuchowski swam 2:00.97 in the 13-14 age group earlier this year, that record had stood for 21 years, set in 1998 by Aaron Piersol, who ended up being a world record holder.
But Jones had already made the cut for the 2020 Olympic trials in the 200 back in the summer, swimming it in 2:01.2.
“It’s awesome,” Jones said. “I got really fast really quick, I think. I never thought a year ago I’d be where I’m at now. It took a while to catch up. I just put my head down and worked.”