By Thomas Sellers Jr.
History was made on the stage of the Munford High School Cafeteria April 26.
But the journey to the historic moment authored by Munford senior Logan Garzonio began in a pool in Millington. After thousands of laps, hours of lessons and several victories, Garzonio became the first MHS student/athlete to sign a national letter of intent for swimming. With his parents Christine Heiser and Jason Garzonio by his side, Logan inked his letter of intent to Milligan College located in Elizabethton.
“It feels absolutely amazing,” Garzonio said. “It’s the first time it’s ever been done and I excited to be the person who did it.”
Garzonio had humble beginnings at the age of 12 in the sport as a member of the Millington YMCA’s Flying Fish. Then he sharpen his skills with Bartlett Xtreme Swimming (BXST) under the guidance of Mike Brown and Scott O’Reilly.
Garzonio wanted all the lessons learned and skills developed to be on display as a Cougar. He created the Munford Swim team. In 2017, he went to State in swimming for Munford, but officially created the team in 2017-18 school year of which he went to State again, qualifying in six events.
Jason noted his son became one of the best in Tennessee just after two years of serious competition.
“He had some friends swimming for the YMCA in Millington and he swam for them,” he recalled. “He went down there and tried it. He just fell in love with it. After two hours of practice, we had to pry him out of the water.
“He has taken it upon himself,” Jason continued. “He drives himself everyday to practice. He goes to swim meets all the time. He’s really committed to it. I’m really proud to see this happen for him.”
O’Reilly said he was not surprised to see Logan mature into a trailblazer for Munford after his quick development with BXST.
“He’s very talented,” Coach noted. “And I foresee untapped potential that’s he’s going to continue to improve. When he gets to college, which is very common for boys, those late beginner. You can just see it. There are some kids who fight it. When you watch him, he just makes it look so easy. You can tell it’s a very high ceiling.”
So far Logan’s records include last spring qualifying and placing first in Backstroke and second in Butterfly at the South East Short Course Conference Regional Championships. In the summer of 2017, Logan qualified for South Eastern Long Course Conference Championships in Backstroke and Freestyle events.
In 2018, Logan has qualified for the South Eastern Short Course Championships in Backstroke, Butterfly, and Freestroke. He has also qualified for SEC Senior Sectionals in Cary, N.C.
The accomplishments in the pool continue with Logan also playing water polo for St. Benedict, with the team finishing second in the state.
Academically, Logan is the recipient of the Presidential Academic Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement. He maintains a 3.275 GPA while also lifeguarding on the weekends.
“He’s a great leader,” O’Reilly said. “He’s very humble. He’s a great teammate. We get a lot of kids from different backgrounds and different schools. You see on bigger teams that they have cliques among the group. He’s very much the glue.
“He gets along with the freshmen and he gets along with the girls,” he added. “The younger swimmers look up to him although he’s relatively new to the sport. He does a great job with bringing kids along and being a mentor.”
Now Logan is ready to be mentored by Milligan College Head Coach Kelly Chism-Essler. The leader of the Buffaloes is in her second season of the swimming program. Chism-Essler is a half iron man finisher with a time of 6 hours, 46 minutes, completing the feat at the Raleigh Half Iron Man on June 5, 2016. She’s also completed an ultra marathon (32 miles).
Chism first came to Milligan as a freshman in 2010, specializing in the Breaststroke and the 1650. In her one year on the Buffs’ swim team, she finished ninth in the NAIA in both the 100 and the 200 Breaststroke. She broke five school records. Chism has recruited Garzonio to see if he can be a record-setter for Milligan.
“Super proud moment,” Jason said. “He’s actually the first kid on my side of the family that’s ever gotten a sports scholarship. I am super proud of him. It’s a real accomplishment. He said he was going to start a swimming team and that he was going to go to college on a swimming scholarship. And he did it.”
Since entering swimming, Logan has accomplished every goal he has set from winning at State to starting a team at Munford. His latest triumph of signing a college scholarship has him one step closer to his next goal of being on the biggest stage in the world for swimming in 2024.
“I grew up around here,” O’Reilly said. “Especially on the boys side, it’s football, basketball and baseball. But there’s been a handful of actually Olympians to come out of Memphis. Then you go north of the city and we’re based in Bartlett.
“It’s a sign to these kids that as long as you come in and are willing to put in some work, it’s a great sport,” he added. “You can do it for the rest of your life. Your progress is up to you. This is a good sign that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what your background is, it’s a sport that you can excel in if that’s what you want to do.”
Years away from being an Olympian, Jason said the family just wanted to enjoy the moment of Logan becoming a part of MHS history.
“This day is big for his Mom and myself simply for the fact it’s something that’s never been done,” he concluded. “It’s going to be a part of our history in our family. He’s setting precedence for future things to come.”
By Thomas Sellers Jr.