When Eureka High sophomore Jack Dolan posed with Vladimir Tarasenko for a picture at the Jack Buck Sports Awards Banquet on Dec. 5, he towered over the St. Louis Blues’ star. At 6-foot-5, height is not a problem for the 16-year-old swimmer.
“I wouldn’t be where I was if I wasn’t as tall as I was,” Dolan said. “It really helps a lot that I was given the body that I have.”
Dolan has developed into one of the nation’s top young swimmers. He was named the 2016 Metro St. Louis Outstanding Swimmer and competed at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in June.
One accolade missing from Dolan’s resume is a high school state swimming championship. Though he would be the state record holder in four individual events, Dolan elected not to swim for Eureka’s team his first two years of high school.
Instead, Dolan trains under coach Mary Liston at Rockwood Swim Club, one of the St. Louis area’s top club teams. Though he may swim for Eureka High as a senior, he has elected to stay with club training so far.
“It’s something that I know is very fun and enjoyable,” he said of high school competition. “At the time, I just don’t feel like it’s the best decision for me.”
So far club swimming has worked out well for Dolan. In early December, he finished fifth in the 50-yard freestyle at the AT&T Winter National Championships in Atlanta. His time of 19.86 seconds was more than a second faster than Missouri’s 2016 high school state champion. Dolan was also a finalist at the meet in the 100 and 200-yard freestyle events.
Rockwood Swim Club begins its morning practices at 5:15 a.m. Dolan hates losing races, and it motivates him to focus all of his energy on swimming.
“I gave up a lot to go all in on the sport,” he said. “I have to think about that a lot. Just stepping back, a lot of the people that I really looked up to [are] now people I’m competing against. It just means a lot.”
After his strong showing at December’s national meet, Dolan did not spend much time celebrating. Less than 48 hours after his flight landed in St. Louis, he was back in the water for a challenging morning practice.
Liston said Dolan does not spend too much time looking at past accomplishments - he focuses on his future goals instead. In Liston’s mind, this is one of his strongest attributes as a swimmer.
“He wants to make the Olympic team in 2020,” Liston said. “As his coach, I’m going to give him every tool to do that. His parents agreed to feed him and let him sleep, and I agreed to work him to death.”
Dolan’s mindset does not go unnoticed by his peers. Rockwood teammate Nick Wamsley says Dolan maintains a laid back attitude in practice while constantly putting in effort.
Wamsley was not surprised when he saw Dolan’s results from the Winter Nationals.
“It just goes to show that Mary’s program works,” Wamsley said. “Hard work pays off.”
Looking ahead, Dolan hopes to make the 2017 Junior National Team. Though he has not started to seriously consider colleges, he said Texas and California are his “dream schools.”
Aside from his fast swimming, Liston feels Dolan is a strong leader for those around him. She said he will help carry on Rockwood Swim Club’s legacy.
“He will now be the history of Rockwood for the kids five years from now,” Liston said. “That’s the tradition and that’s the culture of the team, and that’s part of the reason why he’s so good. The expectation is that we’ll all be good.”