Before his second race, Marana swimmer Jordan Jeffries paced the deck, staring into the water as his white iPod headphones swung side-to-side Michael Phelps-style, blaring the theme from Sylvester Stallone’s classic Rocky.
During Saturday’s 4A Southern regional swim meet, comeback kid Jeffries made the theme his own.
The Marana junior started the 100-yard backstroke as a second seed, and, with a preliminary time nearly two seconds behind that of the race’s Apollo Creed (Catalina Foothills’ favored Cole Puchi), smart money was on his finishing there.
Underdog Jeffries instead played the role of Balboa, pulling away in the last leg of the race and staging an incredible upset victory over Puchi, winning the regional championship in the event and automatically qualifying to swim in the state meet at Arizona State University on Oct. 31.
The winning time: 55.98 seconds, more than 2-1/2 seconds faster than his preliminary time, and second-best statewide.
“I was pretty tired coming off that wall at the end,” said Jeffries. “But it was like all the training I did the whole year came back and I thought, ‘I can do this.’”
That wasn’t all he could do.
Jeffries broke school records in both the backstroke and the 100-yard butterfly with a final time of 53.43 seconds, and helped the Tigers to a sixth seed in the 200-yard individual medley relay.
Fast times and broken records are important, but Jeffries’ team spirit is also critical to the Tigers’ team success, according to Marana head coach Erin Brewer.
“He gives a sense of confidence to the team because he is so encouraging to everybody,” said Brewer. “He’s always cheering for everyone else.”