Plum’s Charlotte Jones makes dream of swimming at next level come true

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Saturday, October 17, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Charlotte Jones has one final year of swimming at Plum, and then she hopes to make her mark at the NCAA Division I level.

The Mustangs senior has given a verbal commitment to continue in the sport at Long Island University-Brooklyn in the Northeast Conference.

“It is a great feeling to be committed,” Jones said. “My dream has been to be a Division I athlete since I was a little girl. To finally have that achieved and know where I am going after I graduate in the spring is so comforting and so rewarding at the same time.”

Jones said she discovered all that LIU-Brooklyn and the swimming program had to offer when a friend, Norwin senior Lizzie Smeltzer, looked into the school during her recruitment process.

“It kind of just clicked for me,” Jones said. “The coach and I got in contact, and things worked out. I am really excited.”

Smeltzer has verbally committed to swim at St. Francis (Pa.). The two will have the chance to compete against each other with their teams in conference meets.

The LIU-Brooklyn women’s swim team placed fifth out of nine at February’s NEC championship meet.

Jones said an early inspiration to swim at the Division I level came from seeing Plum resident and Oakland Catholic graduate Peyton Kondis excel at both the WPIAL and PIAA meets and earn a scholarship to swim at Houston.

Kondis, as a senior with the Cougars for the 2019-20 season, was named the American Athletic Conference Co-Swimmer of the Year. The Olympic Trials qualifier won AAC titles in the 100- and 200-yard breaststrokes and qualified for nationals.

Jones, a member of the Fox Chapel Killer Whales swim club, also drew inspiration from others such as former Plum teammate Devan Taylor (James Madison), Penn Hills graduate Stephanie Sipple (Cleveland State) and Highlands graduate Bailey Bonnett (Kentucky).

”This summer, I had the chance to volunteer as a coach with Meadowink Swim Club, and I was talking with the kids there about what swimming means to me to maybe inspire them,” she said. “It’s been so cool for me to see others branching out to places all over the country and being able to be a part of a Division I program and making those dreams a reality.”

Jones said she also draws inspiration from her sister, Katherine, a junior forward on the women’s hockey team at Arizona State.

“She has always inspired me, coming back from an ACL injury and being named captain at Arizona State as a sophomore,” Jones said. “She has done so much and has grown and flourished. I want to follow in her footsteps. I want to make the same kind of impact at Long Island.”

Jones swam for Plum as a freshman, but took a year off from high school swimming as a sophomore.

“I took my sophomore year off to focus on me,” Jones said. “I didn’t feel I could give enough of what I was worth to the high school team by doing both. I kind of took a step back and re-evaluated some things. That break allowed me to refocus my passions.”

This past season, Jones placed 14th overall (59.39) in the girls 100 backstroke at the WPIAL Class AAA championships. She also helped Plum’s 200 medley relay take 13th (1:52.44).

A week after her high school season ended, she recorded a personal best of 58.83 in the 100 back at a Junior Olympic club meet. That time was faster than the Plum school record of 59.01 set by Plum Sports Hall of Famer Karen Van Tassel in 1992.

Jones, who trains several days a week at the Olympic Swim and Health Club in Penn Hills, said she is looking forward to her senior year at Plum and whatever form the season will take.

“The high school meets are always so much fun,” she said. “The atmosphere is really uplifting and positive. It made it fun to come back to swim in high school.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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