By Wayne Witkowski
Jackson Liberty High School record-setting boys’ swimmer John Nutt will be one of the newcomers expected to get a lot of attention when the Shore Conference and NJSIAA swim meets get underway late next month and early March.
It starts Jan. 13 at 5 p.m. with the Ocean County championships at the Ocean County YMCA pool. The girls swim the following day at 2 p.m.
Only a freshman, Nutt has set team records in three events — two within the past week — as the Lions are enjoying one of their stronger starts at 4-2-1.
Nutt, who also swims for the Atlantic Club team, reset his own school record last week in the 200-yard individual medley (IM) with a time of 2:05.46 in Jackson Liberty’s 100-70 loss to Central Regional High School Jan. 6 that decided the leadership of the Shore Conference A North Division. Had the Lions won, they would have been in a commanding position to win their first division title. Instead, they need to get some help from a strong Manasquan High School team when it swims against Central Regional Jan. 30. Jackson Liberty also swims against Manasquan Jan. 10.
“You’re going to hear a lot from him now and in the future,” said fourth-year coach Mike Disanza as he praised Nutt’s hard work in practices and the experience he brings to the team.
Nutt also set school records in the 100 breaststroke in 1:05.85 during a meet won against Manchester Township High School, 118-45, Jan. 4. In that meet, he also set the previous IM record he would reset two days later against Central Regional. Nutt also swam to a school record time of 1:53.04 in the 200 freestyle in the season opener against Brick Memorial High School — an 85-85 tie.
“It all started when I was 6 years old swimming with one of my best friends who now swims at Jackson Memorial, Patrick Idank,” Nutt said. “I’ve worked very hard since then. It’s been a great experience and great getting to this level; Patrick has inspired me as a friend.”
“He’s been doing it a long time, but he doesn’t brag about it but is very modest and humble,” Disanza said. “It’s internalized and he keeps his focus. I want every swimmer to be like him. He makes it all seem like it’s nothing for him to do it. He makes kids think, ‘Maybe I can connect with that kind of work ethic.’ He lets his action speak his words, doing his talking through his performance.”
Nutt has qualified for the NJSIAA championships in early March in the IM and the 500 freestyle. Although he has yet to swim the 500 freestyle this season, he qualified for the state meet based on a time that carried over from the Atlantic Club — a time of 4:46 that is well under the state meet qualifying time.
His fastest IM time is 1:59.21, which he swam in a mid-December meet in Philadelphia for the Atlantic Club. Nutt competes on the Senior level for swimmers ages 13 to 18, training six days a week in the pool as well as dry land workouts.
“This season has been great — better than I expected,” Nutt said of his varsity season. “Swimming for the Atlantic Club has helped me with confidence. I’d like to finish in the top eight in the state meet and to qualify for the Junior Nationals [with the Atlantic Club team].”
Nutt also is swimming for the Atlantic Club for its short course season in a 25-yard pool that runs from September to March. He also swims for the Atlantic Club during the outdoor season in May through July.
He has qualified for the Shore Conference championships in the breaststroke, which he has been timed in as low as 1:01.20 for the Atlantic Club. Nutt also has qualified for Shore Conference in the IM, 100 butterfly and 200 and 500 freestyles.
Although Nutt has played a major role in Jackson Liberty’s success, it does not stop there. Derrick Patron, a senior, has been solid in the breaststroke, and junior Tom Ferullo has competed well in the 50 and 100 freestyles and will compete in both at the Shore Conference meet. He is closing in on the school record in the 50 freestyle of 22.9 held by older brother, Andrew, who graduated with a personal best of 23.95. Sophomore Aaron Spexarth has excelled in the distance freestyles.
“We’ve been very young overall the last two seasons,” Disanza said. “We have a lot of guys who are inexperienced swimming [competitively] for only the past year or two, and we’re looking to the upperclassmen to lead the way.”
That also includes young Nutt, who has led well by example in a career that is destined to set school records that will stand up for a long time.