Jason Louser went out with a splash, and what a splash it was.
Louser not only won state championships in two events, bringing him five state titles over the course of five years, but he wrapped up his high school swimming career with a pair of state records, to boot. Now that’s how to cap off a fabulous high school career for the independent swimmer representing a school (Shoreham-Wading River) without a pool.
Oh, and for the second year in a row, Louser walked off with the award for being the state meet’s most outstanding competitor. Last year he shared that honor with Lynbrook’s Tim Marski and Chaminade’s Christian Sztolcman.
Not even in his wildest imagination could Louser, who will swim for University of California, Berkeley next year, have dreamed of it ending this way.
“That was my last high school varsity swim ever and I’m just so happy with how it turned out,” he said. “It couldn’t have gone any better, from the beginning to the very end.”
In Louser’s final high school race Saturday in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships, the senior broke his own state record in the 100-yard breaststroke in 53.94 seconds at Nassau County Aquatic Center in East Meadow. Just the day before, in the preliminaries, he clocked 54.60, missing by .09 seconds the state record that Huntington’s Gunther Cassell set in 2015.
Earlier, on Saturday, Louser blew away the field in the 200-yard individual medley. Louser positioned himself on the starting block in Lane 5 before springing forward, his long, lean 6-7 figure cutting through the water like a submarine. He finished nearly five seconds ahead of his nearest competitor, winning in 1:47.98. Louser himself set the state record in the event Friday with a time of 1:46.00. Hauppauge’s Justin Plaschka was the previous record-holder (1:47.83 in 2014).
All in all, it was quite a haul for Louser, who was the defending state champion in both events.
“What he did was amazing, and I knew he could do that because he’s the kind of kid who will set his mind to what he wants,” SWR coach Kate Conard said. “He came and he told me, ‘I want to go for the state record for this meet.’ I was like, ‘Alright, let’s do that.’ ”
Louser’s final swim in the 100 breaststroke was preceded by some drama. With the 10 finalists lined up on the starting blocks, Garden City senior John Protano flinched forward, couldn’t stop his momentum and fell into the pool before the race could begin. Officials conferred and Protano was sent off.
That didn’t make fans happy. They booed the decision and chanted, “Let him swim!” However, upon hearing immediate complaints about a spectator using flash photography, the officials reconvened and reversed the decision, allowing Protano to once again take his place on the starting block.
Conard said Louser “has such a great mentality. His race in the 100 breaststroke just proves that when the stars don’t line up perfectly — like all the commotion that went on before — he can still swim [his] best race.”
What was the composed Louser’s reaction immediately after the race?
He said, “I looked at the scoreboard and I hit 53 and I was just astonished with my time.” He added: “I’m incredibly proud that that was my final race … It was an outstanding race.”
Dansville junior Aidan Kreiley was second in 55.72. Protano ended up sixth in 57.66.
In the 200 IM, Louser’s closest competitor was Great Neck South sophomore Justin Whang (1:52.43).
Perhaps the toughest part of Louser’s day was the two-plus-hour interval between his two finals Saturday.
“After my 200 IM, it wasn’t a tough race, but I was definitely more tired than I would like to be after it,” he said. “I was sitting around for a couple of hours, getting tired. I started drinking some coffee to get myself going. I made sure I had a long warmup swim before I went out for my 100 breaststroke, so I gave myself the perfect opportunity to go for that state record. It’s more staying warm, keeping the clothes on and all that stuff, trying not to get 100 percent pumped up too early because then that energy can go to waste.”
With his parents, Karen and Kevin, on hand to witness, Louser then went about completing his impressive double.
Thanks to the one-man Louser team, SWR finished 23rd in the team scoring with 48 points. Niskayuna (189) was first.
“It was definitely outstanding,” stated Louser, who said he was grateful for what he has been able to do with the opportunities given him.
Louser is Suffolk County swimming royalty, and eyes are drawn to him whenever he steps up to the starting block.
“And he’s likeable, too, and that’s what makes everyone cheer for him,” Conard said. “He is so grateful. He is very humble. He gets excited when he wins his race, of course, but he says, ‘Good job to everybody.’ Sportsmanship is right there and that speaks more than being fast.”
Finally, at the end of a long day, Louser was asked if he was proud of himself. He was, he said, but also added that he was tired.
“I don’t know what’s waiting for me at home, but I may crash before then,” he said. “We’ll see.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River senior Jason Louser handling the butterfly phase of the 200-yard individual medley final Saturday at Nassau County Aquatic Center in East Meadow. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)