Favorite athlete: Brayden Schenn
Favorite team: Flyers
Favorite memory competing in sports: Sophomore year I was in the first heat of the 100 fly at states. I was standing next to my coach Pat watching the last heat of prelims come in, and we realized that I made the A final. We both cried.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: When I was 12, I was at SAL A-Champs. I was swimming the 100 IM, but I thought it was a 200IM, so I swam two laps of butterfly before realizing it was only a 100. I finished the race in the correct order but ended up getting disqualified.
Music on iPod: A wide range because I am the locker room DJ. Anywhere from Rap, Pop, and Country.
Future plans: I will be attending college at Nova Southeastern University where I will major in Marine Biology and continue my swimming career.
Words to live by: “Once you take a hill, don’t give it back.”
One goal before turning 30: Have my dream job of working in marine mammal rehabilitation in Florida.
One thing people don’t know about me: I’m allergic to blueberries and chocolate. My friends don’t even know, one time at a meet my teammate gave me a chocolate covered blueberry.
By Craig Ostroff
Some captains lead by example. Some act as a spark plug, firing up team members before a big game or meet.
As a tri-captain of the Upper Dublin girls’ swim team, Jenna Johns sees her role as a leader on an underclassman-heavy squad a little differently.
“I kind of see myself as the team mom,” Johns said. “Whenever anyone has a bad race or is sick, I’m the first one to go to them. I try to be really open and personable, and I hope the girls on the team feel that I am and that they can come to me with any problems.
“Anytime anyone needs any advice, I want to be the one to help. If I see tears, I’m the first one to go over, ‘Why are you crying? You’re doing awesome. It’s one race. You’ll get it next time.’ I don’t like when people are sad. I want everyone to be happy.”
Of course, Johns’ leadership shows in her actions in practice and in meets as well.
“Jenna came in as a freshman with a lot of talent, but she was also very mature,” coach Pat Redican said. “She’s really grown into a leader. Even as a sophomore and junior, you could see kids looking to her at practice – she has a great work ethic, she does all the things we ask her to do. Her leadership comes out in so many different ways. It’s not always about being vocal, it’s also about what she does.
“Jenna’s leadership has been massively important. She helps to inspire some of the other kids to get where they’re going to get. She can’t win a race for someone else, but when they see the day-to-day things she does in practice, in team meetings, they see her attention to detail and work ethic and how successful she is, they want to be there. It’s really critical to have someone like that to show the younger kids the way.”
The maturity that Johns showed even as a freshman has helped her grow into a consummate teammate, even in a sport that can be very individualized. Johns credits her parents as well as the senior captains from her freshman year for her humble and team-first attitude.
“My freshman year, we had phenomenal captains,” she said. “Thinking about how they treated the team that year, I knew that if I would become a captain, I could share the qualities they had.
“Before school even began my freshman year, one of the captains, Sam Wheatley, sat down with me and talked about how we wanted to see season go. She told me to remember I’m still a freshman, even though I’d been swimming with everyone since I was 10, to stay focused on my races and stay focused on getting better.”
Johns’ love of swimming dates back as far as she can remember. A self-professed “pool rat,” she can pinpoint the moment she wanted to start swimming competitively.
Her family arrived at the Oreland Swim Club one summer day when she was five, and the club was hosting a swim meet that was running late. Seeing the swimmers from afar sparked her love of competitive swimming.
“I remember looking from the baby pool to the big pool and saying to my mom, ‘I want to do that,’” Johns said. “Since then, swimming has been a love and a passion.”
She tried her hand at lacrosse and soccer when she was younger, but neither held the sway that the pool did. And while in middle school, Johns began to realize that not only did she love swimming, but that it was something she could take to the next level … and the next.
“When I was about 12 and we were swimming at Zones, being able to compete at that level, I started thinking, I can do this in high school,” she said. “After freshman year, being able to contend at districts and final at states, it really hit me, ‘I want to keep doing this.’”
With appearances at the State Championship meet in each of her first three seasons, Johns has set her sights high for her final campaign in the pools. But as her coach will attest, Johns is far more focused on team successes than personal goals.
“That maturity that Jenna showed even when she was a freshman, the way that maturity came out in her was in her sense of team,” Redican said. “Yes, she has personal goals and things she wants to accomplish. But her motivation has never been about making it to the next level—to districts, to states—and it’s not about record boards or awards. She was always focused on how she could help the team.
“And over the years, if there’s one thing the kids know and that I know, if it comes down to Jenna at the end of a relay, Jenna’s going to do it. She’ll come through for the team.”
Johns’ primary goals this year are to continue the Upper Dublin girls’ team’s streak and claim its 28th consecutive Suburban One League title. And a top three team finish at districts would be ideal.
As for her personal goals, Johns said she’s working hard to make sure her last swim for Upper Dublin comes at the State Championships. And there is one very personal goal she’d really love to achieve.
“I always have that record board haunting me at every practice,” said Johns, whose personal best in the 100 fly is 55.37 seconds, just shy of Megan Lafferty’s team record of 55.05.
“Megan Lafferty is one of the best—if not the best—to ever go through Upper Dublin,” said Johns, who also plays water polo in the fall. “To see my name where hers was would be phenomenal. I’ve been looking at that since freshman year.”
Achieving those goals would certainly help end her senior season in an exceptional fashion. Though the season began in a pretty exceptional manner for Johns as well.
In the Upper Dublin Cardinal Invitational in December, Johns saw the culmination of a lot of hard work pay off as her senior project came to life.
Johns created a relay event for the invitational meet called Swim for the Girls. All proceeds benefitted the Breathing Room Foundation, which helps support families affected by cancer. It was a cause near and dear to Johns’ heart, as a family of one of the swimmers was affected by cancer and received financial and emotional help from the Jenkintown-based organization.
“It was a lot of work, coming up with everything, running around to local businesses to try to get donations and support, but it all paid off,” Johns said. “It was really rewarding.”
“Jenna did everything to make that race happen,” Redican said. “It was entirely her project from beginning to end. It was amazing to watch it happen.”
Of course, the Swim for the Girls wasn’t exactly a typical relay race. It didn’t even involve the girls … only their swimwear.
“The Swim for the Girls was a boys’ breaststroke relay in girls’ bathing suits,” Johns said with a laugh. “It got very intense, I told them the winning team would get a cake. They all had a blast.”
Just as she’s working hard in the pool, Johns remains a dedicated student as well. A member of Upper Dublin’s National Honor Society, she’s taking an advanced honors science class as well as AP classes this year as she prepares to take both her swimming and her education to the next level.
Johns will head south in the fall to Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Johns will take to the pool for the Sharks’ swim team while pursuing yet another lifelong passion, as she plans to study marine biology.
In looking for colleges, Johns first searched for schools offering her potential major, then checked to see if they also had a swim team. Nova Southeastern gave her a chance to pursue both her major and a Division II swim career.
“I know this is going to sound silly, but since I was four, I knew I wanted to major in marine biology,” Johns said. “That was a huge deciding factor in where I wanted to go to college. Academics were my priority, and fortunately Nova Southeastern has the best of both worlds. As soon as I stepped foot on campus, I knew it was the one.”
“Jenna had her goals set from the beginning,” Redican said. “She knew what she wanted out of college. That’s so admirable that she knows that swimming is a facet of her life, but not her entire life. She keeps that in perspective.
“Nova Southeastern is getting a kid who’s focused, who knows the value of hard work, a kid who will do whatever she needs to do for the team. She’s going to come in with the idea she can contribute immediately and she’s going to continue learn and improve and enjoy it.”
And if her experiences in college add up to a happy ending, Johns is hoping less for a storybook ending and more of a movie ending. One movie in particular.
“My goal is to work in marine mammal rehabilitation. If I could have a job like ‘Dolphin Tale,’ that would be my ultimate life goal,” she said with a laugh. “Even if everyone says that will never happen, I will make sure it happens!”