In most ways, Jason Polansky is like a lot of high school swimmers. The Catoctin (Md.) High freshman is a determined trainer who never misses a practice and can't wait for the winter swim season's first meet. But there is something strikingly different about Polansky: He's completely blind.
According to WUSA-TV in nearby Washington, D.C., Polanksy has impressed teammates and coaches with his ability to fit in with his teammates. The 14-year-old, who first began swimming at age 4, has had to adjust to more rigid swimming lanes and the need for a steadily paced stroke to help him determine how much farther he needs to swim before reaching the wall. The freshman counts all his strokes so he knows when he's approaching a wall.
Still, those adjustments -- which are significant without sight -- have come along at a startling pace, leading coaches and Polansky himself to approach the forthcoming season with ample reasons for optimism.
"This is really the first time I've done competition swimming," Polansky told WUSA. "It's the first time I've been on a swim team. I like the team aspect.
"I do push myself. I want to work hard at it and I want to do the best that I can do."
"He's completely comfortable in the water and willing to learn," Catoctin coach Rebecca Scott told WUSA.
Whether Polansky wins any races or earns any points for Catoctin or not, his teammates say he's already made a bigger contribution than he realizes.
"When you're in the pool and you see Jason doing what you're doing, it makes you want to try so much harder," Catoctin senior swimmer Nicole Thom said.
"He's an inspiration to all kids because he's out here working so hard and he's doing amazing."