PITTSFIELD — Next fall will be a homecoming of sorts for St. Joseph’s Jessie Tobin.
The senior, who hails originally from the Sunshine State will return to Florida to swim and study in the collegiate ranks.
Tobin signed a National Letter of Intent Monday to attend the University of Tampa, where she will swim freestyle for the Spartans in NCAA Division II competition.
“I always wanted to get back to the warm weather, get back to the beaches. I like swimming outside,” joked Tobin after initialing on the line. “I’m not from up here and I don’t like the cold.”
After relocating to the Berkshires just before high school, Tobin has spent her four years at St. Joe leading a renaissance within the swim team and the athletic program as a whole. She swam a largely undefeated slate as a freshman, bursting onto the scene and helping the Crusaders earn a handful of spots in the state championship.
Since then, within the St. Joseph co-op with Hoosac Valley and others, Tobin has continued her ascent up the time charts and has parlayed countless hours in the pool and gym to an opportunity swim back where she was born in Florida with the UTampa Spartans.
Swimming at this level wasn’t something that came about lightly or on a recent whim. Tobin has set this goal for herself since she was around 11 years old. She started her competitive swimming career around the age of nine in New Mexico, where she spent five years before arriving in Western Mass.
“You have to be very committed, and when you’re that young you have to commit to practice every day. Even when you’re that young, you kind of know that this is what I’m going to be doing,” said Tobin. “There are definitely points, when I got into high school and couldn’t go out on Friday nights or hang out on weekends, but I love it.”
Tobin has continually set goals for herself in and out of the water, maintaining a high GPA, while staying involved in a host of extracurriculars like student council, choir and a few charitable and scholarship boards.
All that has paid off and she will compete likely in middle-distance freestyle for the Spartans next year.
“The thing about swimming that is great is that because it is an individual sport, you can constantly set goals for yourself,” explained Tobin, who also swims Club for the Bluefish out of Easthampton. “I’m constantly trying to drop time and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten faster and faster and that is what keeps me driven.”
As a freshman, Tobin posted a time of of 5:15.12 in the 500 freestyle and 25:52 in the 50 free at states. A year later, she shed around seven seconds off her distance time, posting a 5:08.36, good for third place overall. She held steady at seventh in the state in the 50, but took nearly 2/10s of a second off her time.
Late last winter, Tobin placed third again in the 500, this time swimming it in 5:06.23. She also switched over to the more endurance-testing 200 free for her second individual race, posting a time of 1:55.54 which put her in fourth place in the MIAA Division I field.
Following that stellar junior season, Tobin and her family began to serious look at and consider her post-high school plans. What started as a pool of 20 schools was narrowed again and again until six remained to take an in-person look at and chat with coaches and teams.
“At first it is really exciting, because you’re just looking at all these great schools and programs,” said Tobin. “But then you have SATs and grades and transcripts. I didn’t realize how stressful it was going to be. It is such a relief to have this done.”
Tobin landed on the University of Tampa not only because the chance to swim down there represented something she has always wanted to return to, but because of what opportunities the Spartans specifically offered.
“I really like what the school has to offer. The campus was really nice, I love the location and they offer a lot of opportunities to study abroad,” said Tobin, who is looking into studying psychology and business after taking an intro to psych course at St. Joseph.
As the Crusaders head into Tobin’s senior season and likely the program and school’s final go-round, they will once again be led by former coach Shannon McMahon. Tobin will co-captain the squad along with fellow St. Joe senior Theresa Kirsimagi and co-op swimmer Liz Bartlett.
“My freshman year it was just the St. Joe team, which was really nice and I enjoyed that. We were pretty good, had a lot of seniors,” said Tobin. “But because the Berkshires doesn’t have a lot of swimmers, we had to combine, and I like it because you get to meet people from the other schools, and now we’re actually one of the top swim teams.”