Jacobs seniors Jenny Tokarz and Vince Chiappetta have known each other for pretty much all of their "swimming lives," beginning when they were on the same club team – the Dundee Dolphins – at 6 years old.
What started as a rivalry grew into a friendship, one that will continue after high school.
Last week, Tokarz and Chiappetta both signed their National Letters of Intent to continue their swimming careers at NCAA Division I Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Signing with the same school, at least initially, came as a big surprise to both.
"It's funny how it happened," Tokarz said. "We kind of grew up together. I'm not going to lie, I didn't like him when I was younger. We had a rivalry."
Chiappetta said ending up at the same college was a coincidence, but a good one.
"We’ve been swimming with each other since we were 6 years old, so it's cool we get to do this all over again," Chiappetta said. "Four more years ... I cannot wait. It's always so much fun with her."
Tokarz, who was the 2019 Northwest Herald Girls Swimmer of the Year, finished her four-year varsity career in the fall, qualifying for state in four individual events during her time at Jacobs. A state meet wasn't held this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It was difficult," Tokarz said of her senior season. "Practices weren’t as hard as in previous years, but it was more mentally draining and mentally harder. Practices were cut down a lot. Even with two-hour practices, we only got a max of one hour to swim. That was hard."
Sectionals were added mid-season, giving Tokarz and seniors one last chance to compete. "I’m just happy we got a season ... some kind of ending," she said. "I got to swim with the same girls that I started with, which was nice."
Chiappetta's senior season is now on hold, with all winter sports temporarily paused.
"Since high school season ended (in February), I've just been lap swimming," said Chiappetta, who placed 29th at state in the 500 free as a junior. "That's been pretty hard ... just going by yourself. I just hope this whole thing just passes over soon so we can get back to swimming, whether that's in high school or club."
Chiappetta, who was also talking to Northern Michigan and Youngstown State, among others, recently was able to make a visit to Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which included a tour of campus and facilities from a group of current Panthers swimmers. Chiappetta said the coaches really set the program apart from others he talked to.
"I liked how engaging they were," Chiappetta said. "Once I started talking to them, it felt natural. They said there would be more than one coach on deck, so you can get different perspectives, and that’s something I like a lot. It's not going to be the same coach telling me what to do. The same voice over and over can get a little boring."
On a Zoom call with coaches and recruits, Tokarz said that she appreciated how the coaches made her feel welcomed.
"I really want to see how far I can push myself in these next four years," Tokarz said. "They care about my goals and where I want to be. I felt more comfortable with Milwaukee out of all the other colleges."
Being able to swim competitively after high school was a dream come true, Chiappetta said.
"I think it’s so cool," Chiappetta said. "I absolutely love swimming, so continuing my journey in the collegiate level is very cool, especially at the DI level. It was big dream of mine to do it. I definitely achieved it."