What’s in a name
Plainfield swimmer sets sites on state meet podium while finishing outstanding career
By Mike Beas
Jackson VanWanzeele owns one individual boys swim record at Plainfield High School and is part of three others as a relay participant.
His scroll of accomplishments is rivaled only by the length of his surname.
“Jackson has the most mispronounced name in the history of our program,” said fourth-year Quakers swim coach Scott Johnson, laughing. “But Jackson does OK with it. He’s pretty focused all of the time, and sometimes gets a good laugh out of it.”
Pronounced as if spelled “VanWonzle,” Jackson, the fourth of 1989 Plainfield graduates Curt and Julie (Wright) VanWanzeele’s five children (all swimmers), learned early in life to brace to hear his last name mangled beyond recognition during meets and invitationals.
“It happens all the time,” said VanWanzeele. “I actually had a meet over the summer in North Carolina, and the public address announcer kept stumbling on it and eventually apologized.”
Given his successes since the start of the 2016-17 swim season, one would think this wouldn’t happen by now. At least locally.
VanWanzeele lowered the Quakers’ standard in the 100-yard butterfly as a junior by clocking a time of 49.96 seconds at the Plainfield sectional. At the 2019 State Meet at the IUPUI Natatorium, he helped the Quakers’ 200 freestyle (1:27.37) and 400 free relays set new marks.
As a freshman, VanWanzeele took part in the record-setting 200 medley relay (1:37.36). He’s been known to occasionally participate in the individual 200 and 500 freestyle events during meets.
An excellent student, VanWanzeele, who carries a 4.5 grade-point average, will attend the University of Indianapolis starting the 2020-21 school year. He will swim for the Greyhounds men’s swim program and major in mechanical engineering.
The work ethic needed to succeed in these areas and more are evident every day at practice, according to Johnson, who credits Avon Community Swim Team coach Jon Karr with much of VanWanzeele’s development (VanWanzeele swims for ACST from the end of February until the start of November).
“What I’ve noticed, as cliché as it sounds, is Jackson works hard and is extremely determined and self-motivated,” said Johnson, who took over as head coach the 2016-17 season after serving as a Plainfield assistant the previous 13 seasons. “I’ve had the pleasure of coaching all of his siblings, and a large part of it has to do with his upbringing.”
As rewarding as ribbons and medals are, VanWanzeele said swimming is more about times than potential wall decorations. Nonetheless, now that it is his final high school season, he would like the chance to stand on the award podium (top eight finishers) at the February state meet.
VanWanzeele came close as a sophomore, placing 10th in both the 100 butterfly and 200 freestyle. Last season, he was 12th and 11th, respectively, in these same events.
“This year, I would like to get the top four at state,” he said. “But if I get really good times, I would be happy with that, too.”