Photo by Theo Tate
Catherine Jakich gets honored before the Paddlers’ regular season finale against Summers-Port on July 14 at Paddlers Pool. Jakich was one of six swimmers who wrapped up their careers with Paddlers this summer.
On July 27, 2004, Catherine Jakich helped the Paddlers Pirates’ 8-and-under 100-meter freestyle relay team accomplish some history.
The 7-year-old Jakich was the anchor of a relay team that broke a team record in Paddlers’ regular season finale against the Summers-Port Sharks at Paddlers Pool. Jakich, 9-year-olds Paige Eavenson and Kelsie Nesbit and 8-year-old Haley James finished first with a team-record time of 1 minute, 25.27 seconds, breaking the old mark of 1:25.49 set in July 1986 by Karen Yehling, Jamie Snelson, Beth Goclan and Melanie Embick.
“When we broke it, it was a really old record,” Jakich said.
Jakich also helped the relay team, nicknamed the Dream Team, finish with an undefeated regular season.
Eleven years later, Jakich’s name is still on the team record board at Paddlers Pool.
“It’s cool to be still up there as a young kid and the fact that we were able to do it; we were the Dream Team,” Jakich said.
Helping the relay team break a team record was the biggest highlight of Jakich’s 14-year Paddlers career, which ended July 19 at the Southwestern Illinois Swim Association Championships at Paddlers Pool.
“What an amazing time it has been to be a Paddlers Pirate,” Jakich said. “I’ll remember it forever.”
Jakich was one of six swimmers who competed in their final season with Paddlers. The others are Maia Cain, Cole De Yong and triplets Anna, Betsy and Chris Hagnauer.
“We all go out to eat after every swim meet, so that’s something I’m sure we’re all going to miss,” Jakich said. “But it’s great swimming with them and going to school with them. It’s been a great time, so it’s going to be sad for all of us to say our goodbyes and go our own separate ways, but it’s been amazing.”
Jakich isn’t planning on swimming in college. She will be competing in track and field at SIUE next year.
Jakich said she plans to continue swimming for leisure.
“After some hard workouts, getting in the pool would be nice,” said Jakich, who graduated from Granite City High in May. “Some days after I lift, I just want to get in and stretch out because swimming makes me feel a million times better when I’m sore. I’m sure I’ll hit the pool sometime at SIUE.”
Jakich finished with an outstanding final season with Paddlers, getting six first-place finishes and 12 second-place finishes. She competed in the 100-meter breaststroke, the 50-meter butterfly and the relay events in all four regular season dual meets and the SWISA meet.
Against Splash City on July 6 at Paddlers, Jakich competed in six events and finished first in four of them.
“When I looked on the board and I saw six events, I immediately went to Celeste (Furmanek) and I was like, ‘Is this a mistake?’” Jakich said. “She was like, ‘No.’ I came to her when I was getting ready to do the 100 breast and I was like, ‘I don’t know if I have any legs to do this.’ But she said you have to get your time and I just pushed through it.”
Jakich also had successful senior seasons in basketball and track at GCHS. She was named on the all-Southwestern Conference girls’ basketball team and earned all-state honors in track after placing third in the shot put at the Class 3A state meet.
Jakich credits Paddlers coach Celeste Furmanek for her outstanding careers in basketball, track and swimming.
“I’m definitely going to miss Celeste,” Jakich said. “She’s been probably the most influential coach in my life. She’s been with me for 14 years. She really pushes me every summer to be the best athlete I can be. She has made the biggest impact of my life.”
Jakich competed in swimming longer than basketball and track. She joined the Paddlers swimming team at age 4.
“When you’re starting out in a new sport when you’re that young, you don’t really know what to expect,” Jakich said. “You’re just kind of thrown in the water and you’re learning everything new. I had my sister who swam, so that was probably a little bit easier for me to adjust.”
Jakich said the hardest part of competing at Paddlers was participating in the early morning practices.
“Some days it’s hard to wake up and some days, I remember I wouldn’t be where I am today without this,” Jakich said. “It’s important for me to get here and get a good workout here every day. If you don’t swim every day in the summer, you’re not going to be in shape when it comes to the SWISA championships. It’s important to be here every day and work hard. I would never look back on it and change anything.”