Boys Swimmer of the Year: Cherry Hill East’s Brookover goes out on top

The Cherry Hill East senior's team-first approach and work ethic paid dividends for the Cougars in 2020.

Cherry Hill East senior Jackson Brookover helped the Cougars add three more state championships to the team’s trophy case during his time with the program. Brookover also boosted Cherry Hill East to a state title in the 400-yard freestyle relay at the 2020 Meet of Champions.

Jackson Brookover watched from the stands five years ago as his older brother, Duncan, swam a championship-winning anchor leg for Cherry Hill East in the 400-yard freestyle relay to clinch the Cougars’ first Public A state title since 2002.

“My brother had that amazing moment against Westfield down to the last relay,” Jackson said. “No one will ever forget that. Having that moment so big and what he did accomplish, all my friends were like, ‘You have to pull out your Duncan mode. Be the best you can. Be a Brookover.’ The expectations were there.”

Jackson Brookover exceeded the high expectations during his four years at Cherry Hill East. He helped the Cougars win three state championships in four years and was a top performer as an individual as well. In his 2020 senior season, Brookover was a South Jersey Invitational champion in two individual events, finished third in the 50-yard freestyle at the Meet of Champions and put his name in the school record books as the anchor on two record-setting relay teams at MOC. Brookover’s outstanding season makes him South Jersey Sports Weekly’s 2020 Boys Swimmer of the Year.

Head coach Joe Cucinotti described Brookover as a “team-oriented” swimmer who was willing to compete in any event he was placed in. Brookover scored 1,045 points in dual meets during his career, setting a program record.

“My own philosophy is to not put kids in the same events,” Cucinotti said. “But his overall ability just gives you the confidence to put him in any event.”

“(Cucinotti) puts me in my events for a reason, for the team,” Brookover added. “It’s always a team-first attitude when it comes to high school swimming. I’ll do whatever he needs me to do and I’ll do my best to get the job done.

Sometimes, that philosophy meant Brookover had to compete in events he didn’t necessarily enjoy. He recalled one dual meet where he swam the 500-yard freestyle for the Cougars even though he rarely competed in distance events.

“Some swimmers, they might complain about doing a 500,” Brookover said. “(Cucinotti) put me in their one time, the 500 free. It was a little annoying at first, but I had to do what I had to do and swim my event.”

Brookover showed off his versatility in some of the year’s biggest meets. At the South Jersey Coaches Invitational, he took  first place in both the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard backstroke. At the 2020 Meet of Champions, Brookover was a finalist in another event, placing third in the 50-yard freestyle.

But Brookover’s biggest accomplishment at the Meet of Champions wasn’t as an individual. Brookover and fellow seniors Bobby Irwin, Alex Volin and Mike Treglia teamed up to take second place in the 200-yard freestyle relay and first place in the 400-yard freestyle relay. Cherry Hill East’s time of 1:25.47 in the 200-yard event and 3:07.37 in the 400-yard were new school records, putting Brookover and his teammates on the program’s record board in their final high school meet.

 

“When I saw the times, I lost my mind,” Cuncinotti said about the relay records. “That puts the season in perspective. That puts the class in perspective.”

“Jackson doesn’t have any other records,” Cucinotti continued. “(2019 graduate) Jack Watson has the backstroke. Dave Rowe (2015 graduate) has the butterfly. (Kevin) Gillooly  (2017 graduate) has the 50-free. Jackson Brookover had none of them. Now he has two.”

Brookover needed to make one final team-first decision to get himself and his teammates on the record board. He opted to swim both freestyle relays even though he was also swimming in the 100-yard backstroke between those two events.
Brookover said the decision was easy. He wanted to swim with his teammates one more time and try to make history. It paid off.

“Seeing the time on the board and seeing the boys go crazy, it was something special,” Brookover said. “It was a great way to go out.”