Setting goals: Dundalk youngster plans to swim 100 laps to raise funds for kidney disease

Written by on September 18, 2013 in Neighborhood News - No comments

Jake relaxes in his element. No, he won't be hanging onto the floats during his 100-lap attempt. - Photo courtesy of Andrew Rusnak

Jake's father, Andrew Rusnak, has helped his son identify and strive toward his goal. - Photo courtesy of Andrew Rusnak

Jake relaxes in his element, the pool. - Photo Courtesy of Andrew Rusnak

With distance swimming recently coming into the national spotlight thanks to Diana Nyad’s swim from Cuba to Florida, a Dundalk resident and St. Casimir’s student has his eye on a feat of his own: 100 laps in the pool at the Y Aquatic Center, 120 Trading Place, Dundalk.

That’s 1.4 miles, the farthest that 7-year-old Jake Rusnak will have swum, if he makes it.

“We’ve been working on goals,” says Jake’s father, Andrew Rusnak Jr.

Jake’s other goal is raising money for a couple of good causes. He is seeking sponsorship in the form of pledges for his big swim, scheduled for Oct. 5. Donors may pledge a certain amount per lap, and then multiply that by the number of laps Jake completes. A donor might pledge 50 cents, for example, and then pay $50 if Jake completes the challenge.

Half of the proceeds will go to the Y of Central Maryland, Jake’s sanctuary.

The other half will go to the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland, which helps with a cause near and dear to Jake and his family.

While he was still in utero, doctors found that Jake had a condition called hydronephrosis.

“His kidney didn’t develop and it kind of dilated,” explains his father. “By the time he was 4, it was a must: it had to be removed.”

Luckily, human beings have two kidneys and can live just fine on one if necessary. In fact, according to Jake’s father, a surprisingly large percentage of adults—including former Raven Paul Kruger—have just one functioning kidney, and many don’t even know it.

“When you’re a parent and your kid goes through one of these things, you learn a lot,” says the elder Rusnak.

Jake is young, and has one kidney to see him through the rest of his life, so he and his family take precautions.

“Contact sports were out,” says Jake’s father. However, he adds, “One of the rules of the house is that you have to be physically active in something.”
Jake was a water baby.

“My dad used to float a ball in the pool, and I would go get it,” Jake says.

“We took him in the pool before he was one,” explains his father. “That’s what he adapted to.”

Jake has come a long way since then.

“He goes down to the pool and does his flip turns,” laughs the elder Rusnak.

So far, Jake has swum a mile on two occasions. He swum his first mile in just under an hour—59 minutes and 40 seconds. The next time, he shaved off substantial time, clocking in at 52 minutes flat.

Jake goes into a zone when he swims very far, and his physical and mental state simplified to sensations.

“After starting, it gets really cool, and then it gets really warm—cozy,” he says.

He does think a little bit, too, but not about math equations.

“Sometimes I think…Well…Sometimes I think about…Well—cartoon shows,” says Jake.

Swimming aside, Jake engages in a healthy lifestyle with the help of his father. He works out twice a week in the basement with calisthenics and light dumbbells. Sometimes, he wears a shirt in the pool to increase the resistance.

“We try to keep his fluids going,” says his father, adding that Jake is “a typical 7-year-old.”

Being from Baltimore, Jake is well aware of the city’s other famous swimmer, Michael Phelps.

“He goes faster than me, and I go slower than him, but I go longer than him,” says Jake.

To help Jake achieve his goal and raise money for kidney disease and the Y of Central Maryland, please contact Andrew Rusnak at

by Erik Zygmont

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