Lake’s Kenton a record breaking five-sport star

FELTON — There’s no denying the change that has occurred with high school athletes over the last decade.

Rather than playing multiple sports throughout the school year, athletes tend to focus on one or two sports and forget about the rest. And while it does still happen, even at smaller schools like Lake Forest High it’s rare to find an athlete who letters in three different sports.

Lake senior Jess Kenton is in an even rarer field. Her freshmen and sophomore years, Kenton was a member of six Spartans teams, two each season. For her junior and current years, the Class of 2016 member still took part in five varsity sports. Or at least she plans to, provided her senior year progresses the way it is envisioned.

Lake's Jess Kenton broke the school's 50-meter freestyle record. (Special to The Journal/LaFayette Bell Sr.)

Lake’s Jess Kenton broke the school’s 50-meter freestyle record. (Special to The Journal/LaFayette Bell Sr.)

“When I was coming into high school, I realized we have a very small school and they need bodies out here,” Kenton said.

Her five current sports are cross country, swimming, indoor track, track and field, and girls’ soccer. Field hockey was her sixth sport, which she participated in for her first two years at Lake Forest.

Participation records for former Lake Forest athletes have been misplaced over time, athletic director Freddie Johnson said. But, her four years of participating in multiple sports, Johnson added, would likely put Kenton near or at the top of the school’s letter earners.

Being Lake’s top letterman, however, was never Kenton’s motivation. School pride and the want to honor her mother, JoAnn, a former Spartan athlete and all-American field hockey player, are what drives her.

“Spartan pride goes far, and it really runs deep in my family and my school family,” Kenton said. “My mom’s my inspiration and role model through everything. She has a hip injury and had countless surgeries so she’s been on crutches for seven or eight years. Every time I get on the field or track or in the water I do it for her.”

Of the six sports she has played, Kenton does have a favorite, swimming. And it’s what she wants to do in college – where she hopes to follow in her mom’s footsteps by studying to be an athletic trainer – although she has yet to decide on a school.

While her final high school swim season is in its infancy, Kenton has already made a splash with the Spartans.

In Lake’s first meet of the season, Dec. 8 versus Caesar Rodney, she broke the school’s record for the 50-meter freestyle. That day Kenton swam the 50 free in 28.79 seconds, nearly a second faster than previous record holder Ann Hollister’s 29.60.

“When I walked in my freshman year, I saw the record board and I told myself that I wanted to come out as one of the greatest swimmers at Lake Forest, so I set that goal for myself,” said Kenton, who entering high school had taken two seasons off from competitive swimming. “I wanted the 400 (free) record and the 50 record and whatever else God let me get.”

Jess Kenton

Jess Kenton

Kenton’s still working on the 400 record, but that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t like to beat her mark in the 50. Of course, training for two vastly different races – one a test of endurance, the other a sprint – isn’t always the easiest.

“You just have to practice with both and do what the coach tells you to do,” she said. “Sometimes you ask for more sets, sometimes you ask to go the extra mile. You ask to come in before practices or stay after. It’s all about the effort you put into it and the amount you are going to work.”

Like any other high school student-athlete, Kenton is excited about the next stage of her life but will also work on building even fonder memories while she is still at Lake Forest.

Being involved with multiple sports, watching those she doesn’t play with her friends and spending time learning with her classmates is what Kenton said she will remember the most. Those things and Dec. 8, the day she became a part of Lake Forest swimming history.

“I looked up (from the pool) at the board (where times are posted) before it went all messy and I just started crying,” Kenton said of breaking the 50 free record. “Then I looked at my mom and I was just like, ‘yeah!’”


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