Jayden Welker, 12, will swim the 50 yard butterfly at the 2017 YMCA Great Lakes Zones Championship Meet at Bowling Green on Sunday, March 19. Welker, a Lincolnview student, is the first member of the Van Wert YMCA Marlins swim team to qualify for the Zones meet in three years. (Photo submitted)
Jayden Welker, 12, will swim the 50 yard butterfly at the 2017 YMCA Great Lakes Zones Championship Meet at Bowling Green on Sunday, March 19. Welker, a Lincolnview student, is the first member of the Van Wert YMCA Marlins swim team to qualify for the Zones meet in three years. (Photo submitted)
VAN WERT — For most of the area swimmers, be it in varsity competition or on the club level, the season came to an end a couple of weeks ago. Lincolnview 6th grader Jayden Welker, however, is set to continue his season for one more meet.

Welker, 12, of Van Wert, will represent the Van Wert YMCA Marlins swim team this Sunday, March 19, at the 2017 YMCA Great Lakes Zones Championship Swim Meet at Bowling Green State University.

Welker qualified for the meet in the 11/12 boys 50 yard butterfly event by swimming a time of 29.90 seconds, beating the required Zones qualification time of 30.39 seconds.

At the 2017 Northwest Ohio YMCA Swim League Championships, also held at BGSU, in early March, Welker placed third in the 50 butterfly, and narrowly missed qualifying for the Zones meet.

“He missed the qualifying time by 0.39 seconds,” Marlins coach Julie Burenga said.

Welker wasn’t ready to call it a season just yet, however. He continued to push himself in an attempt to get into the Zones meet.

“There is what is called the Last Chance Meet, which was last Saturday at the Lima YMCA, and it gives swimmer one last chance to make those qualifying times,” Burenga said. “He swam at that meet, and that’s where he made his qualifying time.”

Welker is seeded 25th of 32 qualifiers in the pre-meet Psych sheet. The Great Lakes Zones Championship Swim Meet will feature swimmers ages 9-18 who meet qualifying times from five states: Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky. The meet begins on Saturday.

“He’s been practicing by himself for the past two weeks,” Burenga said of Welker. “He’s a remarkable young man; he’s very dedicated and very driven.”

Welker is the first Marlin swimmer to qualify for the Zones Championships since 2014 when Jamie Burenga and Emma Pollock each qualified as 10-year-olds. Welker’s success is an indicator of a program that continues to grow.

“We had many swimmers show continual time improvements over the course of this season, and several swimmers place in the top-10 at (the Northwest Ohio Championship),” Coach Burenga said. “We also grew in numbers over the course of the year, so we’re excited about the future of the program.”

Jaime Burenga, now 13, broke a team record in the 400M freestyle with a time of 5:31.44. That record had stood since 1983. Welker, too, set Marlins marks in the 400M freestyle in 5:30.38 and 500 yard freestyle in 6:24.42.

“Swimming is definitely his sport; he’s a remarkable swimmer,” Coach Burenga said of Welker. “He has a lot of talent and a lot of drive.”

The Marlins swim club has swimmers aged 5 through 18 and offers a summer and a winter program.

“The summer season begins in May, with a parent meeting on May 1 at 7 p.m. at the Van Wert YMCA,” Burenga said. “The summer season runs from June through mid-July and is a great opportunity to try competitive swimming.”