When Jack Conger started swimming for the Flower Valley Swim Team six years ago, he barely knew more than how to keep himself afloat. But the very-young Jack took an immediate liking to the sport. Soon after joining Flower Valley, he joined the Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club. And now the 14-year-old devotes both his summers and his winters to the pool.
“It was just like a fun thing for me to do, and I was good at it,” Conger said. “I like it. I really like it.”
Conger has swum his way into the multiple record books. In just two days of competition at the Potomac Valley Swimming Age Group Championships, where he competes for RMSC, he has already set two PVS records: he broke the boys’ 13-14 100-meter long-course butterfly record Thursday night with his time of 57.53 and he set a record in last night’s boys’ 13-14 200-meter long-course individual medley, finishing with a time of 2:11.16.
He also holds two national records, both set earlier this year: the boys’ 13-14 200-yard backstroke (1:46.82) and the boys’ 13-14 400-yard medley relay, which he swam with Garrett Powell, 14, Collin Stanhope, 14, and Matthew Gibson, 14. The team finished with a time of 3:33.95. Both records were set in short-course pools.
Conger’s name is all over the MCSL record books as well. This year alone, he’s set four records, all in the boys’ 13-14 age category: the 100-meter individual medley (1:01.16), the 50-meter freestyle (24.41), the 50-meter backstroke (27.70) and the 50-meter butterfly (26.76).
Flower Valley head coach Chris Leggett attributed Conger’s success to his work ethic and his enthusiasm in the pool. “He’s a hard worker, and he likes to go fast,” Leggett said. “He’s a straight up racer. He’ll hardly ever turn down a race.”
Conger’s wiry frame gives him an advantage over his opponents. He stands well over 6 feet—Leggett estimates 6 feet 4—and his long limbs allow him to push through the water much faster than other swimmers. Leggett, 22, said that he sometimes races against Conger at Flower Valley practices, and Conger even has the advantage over his 6-foot-tall coach off the block.
His times have raised his expectations. He envisions Olympic Trials and World Championship Trials in his future. Thoughts of the Olympics dance in Leggett’s head when he sees Conger swim. In a few weeks, Conger will swim at the U.S. Open, which features the top young swimmers in the country. Conger watched the 2008 Beijing Olympics avidly, noting exactly what Michael Phelps and company did to become so successful.
“I looked a lot at where they were when they were my age, and what I could do to be like them now,” Conger said.
In order to achieve Olympic levels of success, Conger spends close to 20 hours a week at the pool. And although he is such an imposing figure in the water, Conger, who will be a freshman at Good Counsel High School in the fall, is just like any other fourteen-year-old boy. He jokes around with teammates before, during and after meets, the same teammates who are sometimes his foes in the next lane. Leggett said that he particularly enjoys playing around with Conger.
“When we go out, we’ll give him a hard time, him being a fourteen-year-old and flirting with girls and all,” Leggett said. “We have fun.”
Because he is so young, he still is unsure of where his swimming will lead.
“It’s just my freshman year, so I don’t really know what I’ll do,” Conger admits. “But I definitely want to swim in college.”