No more Olympic Trials, Valley teen instead swimming for charity

Posted at 4:33 PM, Jun 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-01 19:38:10-04

MESA, AZ — Keaton Jones is not your average 15-year-old. His freshman year at Higley High School included breaking a national swimming record for his age group that had previously stood for 21 years.

“At 14, I broke it in the 200 backstroke,” said Jones who clocked in at 2 minutes, 00.28 seconds back in October. “So I was in the fastest 14-year-old in the nation, ever.”

Jones had earned a spot on USA Swimming’s biggest stage, the Olympic Trials.

“My goal really at trials was just to get experience, so that in 2024 I would be prepared for it when I'm in my prime,” he said.

But the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the Olympic dream was put on pause. So, Jones found a new goal in the short-term. He, along with training partner Devin Esser, another Swim Neptune teammate and their two coaches will all swim a mile every hour for 24 straight hours. The idea behind the swim is to try and raise funds to purchase and distribute masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and other PPE items to nursing homes, assisted living and long-term care facilities across Arizona.

“We thought it would be a good chance to raise money for COVID response, and helping the most hit part of Arizona, which is our elderly,” said Jones.

“There's a lot of people doing great things for the community during this time, and as a kid, it's tough to know how you can reach out and help,” said Esser, who will be a senior at Veritas Prep Academy. “To find an opportunity like this where we can come together as three kids, two coaches and a whole swim team to come and help provide for the people who need it most is just a really good opportunity.”

This Saturday starting at 10 a.m., the five will swim a mile at the top of every hour until Sunday morning at 9 a.m. when they will push it even harder.

“This event's about going the extra mile, so that last hour is not going to be one mile, it's going to be two. That's going to give us 25 miles in 24 hours,” said Joe Zemaitis, coach of Swim Neptune.

The goal is to raise $25,000, or a $1,000 for each mile swam. The Neptune Swimming Foundation will purchase and deliver the supplies to the beneficiaries throughout the month of June.

“I’m only 15, and I just got my permit a few months ago. I can barely drive without an adult in the car, so I can't do a lot of things,” said Jones. “But I’ve always loved swimming. It's been my life for a really long time, and I love that I can help other people by doing what I love.”

“This is just really rewarding to see as a coach,” said Zemaitis. “It’s kids not just focused on their own goals, but coming together to combine forces and do something great in the community.”

Those interested in taking part can visit their fundraising website HERE.