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Saugus' Morsch capped career with Santa Clarita Valley best

Posted: May 15, 2013 7:45 p.m.
Updated: May 15, 2013 7:45 p.m.
Saugus’ Jonathan Morsch capped his high school career as part of a record-breaking Centurions 200-free relay team at Saturday’s CIF-SS Division I Championships. Saugus’ Jonathan Morsch capped his high school career as part of a record-breaking Centurions 200-free relay team at Saturday’s CIF-SS Division I Championships.
Saugus’ Jonathan Morsch capped his high school career as part of a record-breaking Centurions 200-free relay team at Saturday’s CIF-SS Division I Championships.

When Jonathan Morsch’s high school swimming career came to an end on Saturday, it was the culmination of 11 years of swimming — an 11-year venture that took Morsch from swimming out of necessity to swimming because he was one of the best the Santa Clarita Valley had to offer.

The Saugus senior started his swimming career because he physically struggled with other activities.

Severe asthma kept him off the fields and courts and drove him into the pool when he was 7 years old. It was one of the few athletic endeavors his body could handle.

“It was a pretty major role when I was looking for a sport to play. Asthma attacks would limit my playing soccer and running and basketball,” Morsch says. “(Swimming) helped condition my body and it didn’t bring me into contact with anything that would set my asthma off.”

Fast-forward to the final swim of his high school career, and the once athletically-inhibited kid broke the longest standing William S. Hart District swim record.

He doesn’t know yet if he’ll continue his swimming career in college — he’s set to attend Cal State Poly San Luis Obispo — but is in talks with coaches at the school with hopes of getting back in the pool.

But if collegiate swimming isn’t in his future, Saturday at the CIF-Southern Section Swim Championships was a nice capstone of its own. Morsch joined with teammates Zachary Zenteno, Alex Chan and Justin Lee to break the Foothill League and district records in the 200-yard freestyle relay in 1 minute, 25.87 seconds.

That record had stood since 1998, when Hart’s Anthony Ervin, Ryan Parmenter, Christian Kneppeck and Eric Pritchett swam a 1:26.28.

For a kid who was OK with being out of the spotlight, there was no way to avoid it after Saturday night’s affair.

At first, though, Morsch was somewhat overshadowed by other Foothill League swimmers through his first two years in the league.

His freshman year, he finished high in the Foothill League standings, picking up a third place finish in the 100 butterfly and fourth in the 100 freestyle at the 2010 Foothill League Finals meet.

His sophomore season was similar, with a third place finish in the 200 free and fourth place in the 100 butterfly.

But he was never one to get much recognition.

There were other swimmers on other teams who stole the spotlight.

Bob Hwang of Valencia, Riley Mita of West Ranch and Mitch Johnson of Hart just to name a few.

“I think a lot of the times he likes that a little bit,” says Saugus head coach Vicky Donnelly. “He likes to kind of rise to the occasion and really be the one that kind of, against the odds, goes out and is successful in the meets and victorious.”

And that’s exactly what happened at last season’s Foothill League Finals meet, where Morsch stole the show.

It was his coming out party of sorts, as he won league titles in both the 100 and 200-yard freestyle events and was named the Foothill League Boys Swimmer of the Meet.

The spotlight was all his.

“I’m not seeking attention, but if it’s there I’ll take it,” Morsch says. “I kind of like attention where it’s due.”

That trend continued on Saturday.

It’s a long way from the child who struggled to perform, not because of his athletic talent, but because of a physical setback.

But Morsch has found the pool to be a sanctuary.

At the very least, it helped Morsch achieve the athletic lifestyle he very much wanted as a youngster who struggled with other activities.

At the most, swimming is the reason he no longer suffers the effects of the severe asthma that kept him off fields and courts as a child.

“He had some events that got serious and had stints at Children’s Hospital and had to be overnighted for days. It was awfully stressful,” says his father, Scott. “Whether he would have overcome the asthma without (swim) or not, it certainly helped.”

He’s been at it since he was 7, first starting in local Parks and Recreation leagues in Santa Clarita before moving to Canyons Aquatics Club at the age of 11.

That’s when he realized swim was something he loved — and not just a way to stay active.

So he dedicated himself to the sport — and to its long hours.

Like many elite swimmers in the Santa Clarita Valley, he spent years waking up early — many times as early as 4:30 a.m. on school days — heading to the pool at College of the Canyons for practice before crossing the valley to attend classes at Saugus. And then it was back to COC for afternoon practice.

He’d often be late to school as a result, something that he says annoyed his teachers at first, before they later came to understand his unique situation.

And the hard work has certainly paid off.

He’s no longer the kid in the pool because he couldn’t be on the soccer pitch, football field or basketball court.

Morsch is swimming because he physically is one of the best the Santa Clarita Valley has to offer.

And that is certainly worthy of the spotlight.



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