This week, Jake Minasi will take part in the biggest audition of his life at the Speedo Junior Nationals in Irvine, Calif.
The Bluffton Fins competed last weekend at the 2013 S.C. Long Course State Championships and Summer Finale meet last weekend at the Universtiy of South Carolina Natatorium in Columbia, and Minasi won the state championships in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke.
His times in those two events, along with the 100 butterfly, qualified him for the Junior Nationals.
The Junior Nationals is for the best swimmers in the country, age 18 or younger. Should he perform well, his next steps would be the Nationals and then the U.S. Olympic Trials.
"It was a huge surprise," said Minasi, who also swims for Bluffton High School. "I've been looking at the times for about two years now, saying to myself, 'maybe I can make it some day.' "
His coach was caught off guard, as well.
"We never made plans like he was going to (advance)," said Fins coach Eric Kemeny, who flies to California today. "I always thought he could, after the times he put up last summer, we felt like we could. But he didn't have a great season this summer. But I'm sure it was always in the back of his mind as well."
Minasi was supposed to have last week off, but instead he did sprint work with Kemeny.
"Coach Kemeny is a great coach," Minasi said, "and I'm very thankful for him."
The Junior Nationals are an important stepping stone for swimmers who want to compete in college. Minasi, who is interested in swimming for an SEC school, particularly Georgia, understands what the chance to compete in the Junior Nationals means.
"It's very big. Huge," said Minasi, who was to fly out Sunday night. "Every Division I college coach is there, with their own swimmers there, and they're also there scouting. I made it and I'll be around all these college coaches. I'll swim my best and hopefully I can impress some of these coaches."
Speedo Junior Nationals
William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center, Irvine, Calif.