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West Branch swimmer Jamyson Robb is cool under pressure

“Never in a million years did I think I’d be state champion twice in a row,” the senior swimmer said.
Jamyson Robb 03052020
West Branch senior Jamyson Robb is a two-time state champion swimmer. (Photo by Tom Williams)

BELOIT — To prepare for a challenging race, West Branch senior swimmer Jamyson Robb likes to listen to music while she paces around the pool.

Her choices range from Christian music to hits from the 1980s, including Toto’s “Africa” and Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”

“The ‘Rocky [IV]’ soundtrack gets me pumped up sometimes,” she said.

Robb didn’t cite Billy Joel’s “Pressure,” but that 1982 smash would fit into her recent playlist.

Robb is a rare athlete, a two-time state champion. In February 2019 as a junior, she won the Division II state championship for the 100-meter breaststroke.

Two weeks ago, with a lot of weight on her shoulders as the swimmer to beat, she repeated that accomplishment.

“I felt so much pressure,” said Robb, who won her second state crown Feb. 21 at C.T. Branin Natatorium next to Canton McKinley High School.

Branin is her “home” pool.

“Going into the meet, I wasn’t that nervous,” she said. “But once I got to the meet, I felt so much pressure. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous in my life than I was that day.”

State prelims or finals?

“Both,” Robb said, laughing, adding that she was “more nervous at finals.”

Music and talking with supporters helped her focus.

“It really helps because when I’m getting ready for my race, we stand behind the diving boards,” she said. “When I’m standing down there, since that pool is my home pool, I know everybody that’s working at that meet — the timers, the ones working at the podium.

“I can talk to them and they’re all telling me ‘good luck,’” she said. “Feeling like I’m surrounded by those people really helps to calm me down.

Once in the water, Robb was in her element.

In the preliminary race, Robb swam 1:01.27, breaking her state meet record by eleven-tenths of a second. She set that record in the 2019 championship race.

“It gave me a lot of confidence,” Robb said of her preliminary race success. “Before I looked at the board, I didn’t think I swam that fast.”

Her one regret?

“I definitely wanted to break that record in finals,” she said. “I didn’t.”

No, but she won in 1:01.65, edging St. Clairsville sophomore Casadie Dibetta (1:02.09).

“It was really close,” Robb said. “The two beside me closed in really well. I could see them on both of my sides.

“I knew I had won, but I knew it was way closer than last year,” Robb said. “Last year, I won by a full body-length. This year I won by four-tenths of a second.”

When it was over, the final race of her varsity career, Robb experienced a combination of joy and relief.

“I felt relieved when I looked at the board and saw that I won,” she said. “Obviously, I wanted to swim a little faster, [but] I was happy.”

In the 200 intermediate medley competition, Robb finished fourth in the state. As a junior, she finished ninth.

“I was really happy with that finish,” she said. “It was a stressful day, that’s for sure.”

Last year, she didn’t qualify for the 200 IM state final.

“I won the consolation final,” Robb said. “But if I had been in the A final, I would have been fifth overall.”

Like last year, West Branch does not have a full swim team, just several Warriors competing as individuals. So Robb practices with the Canton McKinley team at Branin. Her club team coach, Mike Davidson, is McKinley’s coach.

“He’s the best coach that I could ever ask for,” Robb said.

Davidson began coaching Robb as a sophomore.

“Practices were a lot harder, but I dropped three seconds from my freshman to my sophomore year in 100 breaststroke,” she said. “Obviously, that was all him.

“He helped me to boost my confidence.”

Robb says it takes her about 30 minutes to drive from her home to the Canton pool, 45 if she’s leaving from West Branch. In the fall, she was able to drive herself to practices without a parent.

“[My driver’s license] is definitely convenient for my parents  [Scottie and Tera],” she said.

An unfortunate gymnastics injury about 10 years ago led her to swimming.

“I hurt my foot so I had to quit,” Robb said of her first sport. 

Her parents wanted her to give swimming a try. 

“My Dad was a really good swimmer,” she said. 

In August, Robb will enroll at Liberty University where she has a full scholarship. She’ll have three months to get acclimated before her college swimming career begins in November.

“Same season as basketball, pretty much,” she said of the collegiate schedule for swimmers.

She plans to major in exercise science.

“I want to become a physical therapist,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be in the medical field.”

“I’ve always been very active, and I’d like to work with people and help people,” she said. 

Her favorite classroom subjects are science and math.

“I’m really not an English or history kind of person,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t really like memorizing. I like being able to work problems out with numbers.” 

Robb already is back in the pool.

“It’s club season now,” she said of her Canton City Schools team that swims through September. “I have a meet this weekend and a sectional meet at the end of March in Indiana.”

Robb admitted that it took a bit for it to sink in that she’s a two-time state champion.

As a freshman, she qualified for state in the 100 breaststroke but finished in the consolation final for the swimmers who don’t finish top eight in the prelims.

“I remember watching the A final and the girl who won,” Robb said. She told herself,  “That would be really cool.

“Never in a million years did I think I’d be state champion twice in a row.”

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