Boys Swimming

FEATURE: Badin’s Gibbons ‘caps’ off prep career with state title

Photo by Betsey miyahara

CANTON — Patrick Gibbons was more than prepared when he stepped on the Lane 5 block inside Canton’s C.T. Branin Natatorium on Friday.

The Badin High School senior had a gameplan for the 200-freestyle swim — at the Division II state meet — fresh in his head.

Then. Rip.

Gibbons suddenly needed something to cover his head.

“I was adjusting it a lot since I was nervous and it tore,” Gibbons recalled being in a panic. “You can’t wear another school’s cap when you’re on the block or else you get disqualified. I needed a green or a black or a Badin cap.

“I had my ripped cap in my hand, and I thought, ‘I need to find a cap right now.’ … I was running around the deck trying to find one. So, I was super nervous.”

Luckily for Gibbons, senior teammate Lena Trokhan came to the rescue.

She qualified for the girls state meet in the 200 and 500 freestyle races but didn’t make it through prelims. Trokhan still had her swim bag with her, though. 

“She gave me a solid green cap,” Gibbons said. “I just grabbed it and ended up running to warmup behind the blocks. … You need a swim cap when you swim — or else your hair will make a lot of drag.

“I ended up meditating for about 5 minutes behind the block to calm my nerves,” Gibbons added. “Then I stepped outside to get some fresh air.

“When I got back behind the block, I knew something was going to happen. I knew that if I didn’t win, the other guy really would have deserved it.”

Gibbons remembered diving in and doing what he was trained to do. His technique and strategy worked perfectly — with a little steering from his coaches.

“They told me I need to take my second 50 out a lot faster,” Gibbons noted. “I usually don’t like that because I like to go faster towards the end and not the start. So, I was like, ‘You know what? You’re the coaches. I’ve got to listen to them.’

“I took out the second 50, and it really paid off in the end. I remember just closing my eyes and not looking at everybody else because I wanted to focus on my own race and do what I could and not focus on what they were doing.”

Gibbons logged a 1:39.72, beating Willoughby’s Krys Gorski by 2 tenths of a second, for the 200-free state title.

“From the video that I’ve watched, I’m pretty sure I was losing most of the race,” Gibbons recollected. “I just got him the last few laps. … I didn’t even know that I won. I just celebrated. I remember finishing the race and being so happy I was crying. I didn’t know if my mom was crying, but they were cheering. My little sister took video of my race, and you can hear my mom screaming and just pushing me towards the wall in that video.”

He also placed eighth in the 100 fly.

“It’s still really crazy to me. It was a really surreal moment. I never thought that I would get the chance to win. I feel really accomplished.”

The dedication and determination were on point all season for Gibbons, who said he only missed four practices — two because he was sick, one because of a service project and the other because he procrastinated on studying for a civics test.

But he made up for it.

“I have eight practices and three liftings a week,” he said. “Then I have two extra liftings on my own after my morning practices. It’s safe to say that I definitely kind of earned it. I also put in a lot of work to get to where I am.”

All of it started when Gibbons was just 7 years old, swimming at New London Hills in Hamilton.

“I fell in love with the sport and the community growing up,” he said.

He’s since then met some inspiring swimmers — including Edgewood graduate and retired Olympic gold medalist Zach Apple.

“I remember looking at his records,” Gibbons said. “He would come in and talk about staying in the sport and having your mind right.”

Gibbons said he’s excited to set his mind on the future. He plans to take his talents from the pool to the air.

“This was my last race,” said Gibbons, who will study aviation in college. “I want to be a pilot. I’m looking at Southern Illinois, Miami University and Ohio State to take my talents there and see what I can do.”

With his high school swimming career in the rearview mirror, Gibbons can bask in glory.

“I’ve got my gold medal on the wall. It’s shiny,” said Gibbons, who estimated 20 ribbons and 60 medals hanging in his room.

“I worked hard for this. If you work for something, you can get it done. Yeah, there was a lot going into this weekend and a lot of pressure. I learned that if I can put my mind to something and if I want it bad enough, it’s going to take a while, but I can get there. And I did.”

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