Howland’s Mindek took unique road to state

Paul Mindek looks on, hearing the echoing sounds as he sits on a portion of a bleacher inside the C.T. Branin Natatorium.

The humid conditions, he’s felt them before and knows them all too well.

The scene, not so much.

He catches a glimpse of his freshman son, Jared, as he prepares for today’s 100-yard breastroke.

Jared is seeded 14th out of 24 swimmers heading into today’s preliminaries of the Division II state swim meet in Canton.

Now Paul wanted Jared to do something during the offseason while he’s not playing baseball for Howland – keep him in condition before taking the field for the Tigers.

“I wanted to give him a try at it,” Paul said. “He’s very athletic. He’s a great baseball player. I figured swimming would keep him in shape early for baseball.”

Jared started swimming when he was 8 years old for the Warren Harding Aquatics Team under WGH varsity coach Steve Lukco. Paul swam for the Warren School Swim Club, predecessor to WHAT, when he was in the Warren City School System.

That’s when he found the breaststroke, which makes a swimmer seem more like a gopher popping his head out of a hole in the ground.

“It kind of felt easy to me,” Jared said. “Some people say it’s the hardest stroke. I like it more than all the other strokes.”

He’s hoping to dip below a minute at state today and qualify for the top 16 in the state, swimming in the finals or consolation finals on Friday.

Jared is 5 feet, 8 inches, so he has the build for the breaststroke.

“Those athletes naturally pick it up, gravitate toward it because they’re able to succeed very quickly at it,” said Jared’s coach, Brandon Staley. “With Jared, he has a strong work ethic and he’s very passionate about the sport of swimming in general. So I think it was a natural transition to put that effort into his breaststroke.

“It has obviously paid off for him this season and seasons prior.”

Staley said since Paul is aware of what swimmers go through, it helps him as well, giving him an extra eye around the pool.

The noise inside the historic Canton swim venue reverberates and carries down to the swimmers.

Jared may take a peek up and see Paul in the crowd above. At that moment, he’ll remember the simplicity to carry though today’s preliminary race.

“Have fun it, not overthink stuff,” Jared said.