SPECIAL EDITION-Tragedy to Trophy

Jeremy Bader  |  Age 16  |  Millard North

Millard North Junior Jeremy Bader has a long list of accomplishments under his swim cap – for a young man who didn’t cross over into the deep end of the pool until 7th grade, Jeremy’s go-for-it attitude has landed him in first-place, many times.

Jeremy’s family has a history of competing in wrestling, boxing and weightlifting. “He comes from a contact sport family,” said Jeff, Jeremy’s father. “So when he said he wanted to try swimming, I was hesitant.” Truth be told, the main reason Jeff was reluctant to support his son’s choice of sport comes from a horrifying event from Jeff’s childhood. When he was a young boy, Jeff lost his little brother in a drowning accident. “We were with some family in Columbus, and we were in little blow up rafts,” he explains. “At one point, I looked behind me and his raft was there but not him. I saw him underneath the water looking up at me, and I went in after him. His finger got caught on the belt loop of my pants. The last thing I remember was hearing a splash, and I passed out before someone grabbed me. All of these people looked for him…they didn’t find him until about four hours later.”

After experiencing a tragic loss at such a young age, Jeff has spent his life avoiding the water. “When we had him (Jeremy), he was my first son, so I named him Jeremy in honor of my brother,” said Jeff. “With all my kids, I have been very insistent that no one took them to a river or a lake. I was the biggest worrywart. I didn’t even let them go to the deep end of the pool.” Jeremy learned how to swim when he made the decision to join the junior high swim team. “It’s really the one thing that I enjoy and I am good at,” said Jeremy. “I meet really cool people and have made some really good friends. There is lots of team camaraderie and it’s a lot of fun.” Jeff says his son is a great team leader, but when it’s time for Jeremy to race, he is focused. “He gets in the zone,” said Jeff. “It’s really neat, it’s like he’s a fish in the water. It’s so neat to see him shoot off of that block like a shot from a gun.”

Jeremy’s swimming may have come naturally to him, but his dive off the starting block did not. Five years ago as a first year swim team member at Bryan Middle School, he competed in the Backstroke to avoid diving off the starting block. The summer before 8th grade, he completed 50 dives every day before hanging out with his friends; and by the time Jeremy’s swim season began he was ready to get on the block and compete in other races. During his 8th grade season, Jeremy and his 200-yard Freestyle Relay team broke the school record, which also broke a 35-year long city record. “It was really cool because it was the finals,” said Jeremy. “Our school was considered the underdogs, so that kind of blew a lot of people’s minds.”

Three years ago while attending a swim clinic, Jeremy had the chance to swim with 2008 Olympian Gil Stovall, who was in Omaha for the 2011 Olympic Trials. “Gil also swims Butterfly and he stayed behind for a half hour or so to work with me on my Butterfly,” said Jeremy. “It was really fun. And it was a challenge. He beat me during our race, but it was cool.” The summer before high school, Jeremy joined the Metro Omaha Swim Team and walked away with more than a dozen medals.

Jeremy attended Bryan High School his freshman year, breaking the school record in the 100-yard Butterfly. As a Varsity team member, he was one of three freshmen to letter in the sport and was the only freshman male to qualify for state and state finals. Jeremy transferred to Millard North his sophomore year and qualified for state in the 100-yard Butterfly. He also qualified for an international meet in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he competed with swimmers from 36 states and three countries — Jeremy placed 20th out of 56 in the 100-meter Butterfly and 13th out of 50 for the 50-meter Butterfly. “I get a lot of feedback from coaches on how hard he works,” said Jeff. “He goes the extra mile in practice and continually pushes himself to improve. He is very dedicated during the season: no soda, candy or fast food. He is the first one in the pool and the last one out.”

Now as a junior, Jeremy’s swim season is off to a great start. He once again has qualified for state in the 100-yard Butterfly and has already matched his state time from last year. All in all, Jeremy has accumulated 22 medals, 21 ribbons, two trophies and a Most Valuable Athlete award. He has broken several pool records at Millard North and has made the Top 10 Best Times list for the 200-yard Individual Medley.

Jeff is proud of his son’s accomplishments and encourages his children to strive for what makes them happy, including Jeremy’s desire to swim in college and to become a marine biologist. “Never do I want them to say ‘I wish I would have,’ regardless of what it is,” said Jeff. “I support the best that I can. I would have never known he would be a swimmer, but he’s become a leader in the pool. He’s just a natural.”

Jeremy never had the chance to meet his uncle, but he proudly swims in honor of his memory. “My mom says it’s ironic that we lost one to water and now we have one that owns the water,” said Jeff.

Jeremy is the son of Jeff and Tammy Bader of Omaha. He has an older sister, Brittany (21) (not pictured); two younger sisters, Janessa (15) and Haley (12); and a younger brother Jake (8).

Read more inspirational stories about our athletes in our Varsity Corner section.

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