LENEXA, Kan. (KSNW) — El Dorado High School senior Jay Tipton was the only qualifier for the Wildcats at this past weekend’s 5A-1A Boys State Swimming and Diving Championships. Being that it was the last meet of his high school career, Tipton’s only expectation was to have fun.

He touched the wall to finish his 100-yard backstroke race and looked up at the clock. The time: 56.86 seconds. That’s when he realized this race marked a feat much bigger than he had expected.

“I was like, ‘Oh! Wow!!’ I mean, I anticipated a fast race, but not this fast. It was really surprising,” said Tipton.

El Dorado High School (EDHS) senior Jay Tipton (KSN Photo)

His time bettered El Dorado’s 1982 school record of 57.81, set by Paul Haffner.

EDHS boys and girls head swim coach Diane Solorio said she knew he was capable and was proud to watch it happen.

“Honestly, it made me cry. I’m not a yeller, but I screamed and jumped up and down, and when he got out of the pool, he came and gave me a big hug. And that was the best,” she said. “It’s a fast time. We have had other records broken, but not one for seven years. So this was exciting.”

While impressive on its own, Tipton’s record is even more remarkable when given all the obstacles that stood in his way. The biggest one being that the high school’s pool has been shut down for three years.

“The pool was shut down due to leaking and water loss issues,” said Interim Superintendent Miles Harvey.

He says the school board continues to try to make a decision on what to do with the pool and gather the resources to fix it.

In the meantime, the student-athletes are practicing at the local YMCA. They have to meet bright and early, at 5:30 a.m., to keep from disturbing other members.

“We are very grateful to have been able to practice at the YMCA,” Tipton said. “But their facilities aren’t exactly set up for competitive swimming. So, for example, their water temperature is held at somewhere around 82 degrees, which is about 10 degrees warmer than you really want for competitive swimming. Which makes it really hard to work out in the morning because you’re overheating so often.”

Other issues are the pool only has three lanes, causing lots of crowding. Coaches are not allowed to use a whistle, and the turn flag spacing is not in the correct place, an important training tool for knowing when to make turns while practicing the backstroke.

“Really, after the pool broke, that amount of work had to be pumped way up to compensate for our lack of proper facilities. But in that way, I think it really helped push me to break the record,” said Tipton.

“Well, I’ll tell you as a swim coach, it is frustrating to practice in a facility that does not have your starting blocks, that you’re not allowed to use a whistle, that your space is limited. I try to make the best of the hour every day that we have, but I knew Tipton would work on his own, and that’s what got him over the hurdle,” added Solorio.

Another obstacle was a shoulder injury Tipton faced that lasted over a third of his three-month season.

“So, going into the season, I was having some shoulder pain. And one day, it popped, and it kind of hurt to lift about a 90-degree angle,” he explained.

He continued working with a physical therapist and returned to the pool healthy only after Christmas break.

“He’s not a year-around swimmer, so this is, this is a lot of talent mixed into training,” said Solorio.

Not only was it the final meet of his senior year, but Tipton’s record was set in his last-ever swimming competition.

“It feels great to cap it off with something as fantastic as that school record. But it feels a whole lot different knowing that I’m completely done with the sport after 12 years of doing it. It’s kind of … I don’t know if it’s really setting in,” said Tipton.

While he says he is a little sad to end his career, Tipton is beyond excited for his future endeavors. Tipton will be attending Wichita State University this upcoming fall to pursue a degree in Aerospace Engineering.

His final words of thanks: “I would love to thank my coaches, Diane Solorio, Patrick Todd and Hannah Hendricks, for really pushing me to where I am.”

“I’m going to miss him,” said Solorio. “I’ve coached him and his three siblings, and that’s truly been an honor.”

“We’re proud of our student athlete’s accomplishments in the pool,” said Harvey.