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May 31, 2024

For the Crown: Jack Ussery

Cheryl Ricer

Photography By

M.Ket
In athletics and academics, Ussery honors God as he succeeds ‘in the pool and in the school’

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An upward trajectory is the only path that Jack Ussery has ever set his sights upon. Ussery, a senior at Hilton Head Christian Academy (HHCA), is a swim champion, an honors student, an entrepreneur, a coach, a community leader, and a Christian committed to the cause of Christ, to whom he boldly gives credit for all his success, past, present, and future. 

Ussery has been swimming since he was 5 years old. His parents enrolled him in lessons so that he could learn the basics. He was fortunate to have a great coach who plugged him in with Redfish, the club team in Bluffton. As he matured, swimming was a side sport, as he was also exploring basketball, baseball, and soccer. In sixth grade he decided to focus solely on swimming. He then transitioned to Hilton Head Aquatics (H2A), the Hilton Head club team. 

“I just put my head down and worked at it,” Ussery said. “I was not the best swimmer growing up. I had a history of burning out, taking breaks, and trying other sports. When I finally made up my mind, I found a real passion for the sport.”

Since he made the transition to swimming, Ussery has been named an H2A All-State Swimmer every year since seventh grade, and he’s also qualified for the USA Senior Nationals and the U.S. Open. At Nationals Competition, he has placed in the top 15 in multiple events. He’s a two-time MVP both for H2A and HHCA, and a two-time USA Swimming Scholastic All-American.

Ussery currently holds South Carolina Independent School Association (SCISA) records in four events (500 freestyle, 100 breaststroke, 200 individual medley, and 200 freestyle) and the South Carolina State Club Record (15-16-year-olds) for long course 100 breaststroke. He is a six-time Club Team South Carolina State Champion in the 100 breaststroke, 200 individual medley, 400 freestyle, and 200 breaststroke.

Conquering the pool has taught Ussery important life lessons. One of the most important is that growth is not always linear. 

 

“My coach, Mike, who’s been with me since sixth grade, has taught me that growth is not just a straight line; there are lots of ups and downs,” Ussery said. “What is important is how I respond to those peaks and valleys, and that’s what helped me become successful in the pool. Since ninth grade, I’ve made tremendous strides in my training and have had some pretty awesome experiences and accomplishments. I am very thankful for where I am today.”

Ussery is an academic champion as well. Recently, he received the 2023 Harvard Book Award and was named a Junior Marshal. He has been named multiple times to the Principal’s Honor Roll and is a member of both the National Honor Society and the Spanish National Honor Society. 

His freshman year, he was a member of the inaugural HHCA Student Leadership Team (The Cage) and has been instrumental in creating a culture of positivity, school spirit, encouragement, and leadership throughout high school. As an Eagle Ambassador, a position selected by school leadership, Ussery completed leadership training and was charged with welcoming new families into the HHCA community, helping new students feel connected and known, and advocating for HHCA within the broader community. 

Ussery believes that the discipline instilled in him through swimming has played a big part in his academic success. Swimming forced him to allocate his time in the sense that the intensity of his practice schedule demanded that he learn to time block.  

“When I find myself procrastinating, I say, ‘hard now, easy later.’ So, I go ahead and get the work done that I need to get done, even though the due date could be a week away,” Ussery said. “I know that if I procrastinate, work will pile up, and the quality of my yield will not be what it should. Being able to time block is super helpful. If I hadn’t learned that in my swimming routine, I’d get caught up doing something that would take me away from homework or studying and ultimately lead me to have an apathetic attitude towards doing work.”

Ussery is also a successful entrepreneur, having established a mobile car detailing business in 2020 that has since grown to become profitable and now serves 60 clients. He manages all aspects of the business, such as managing costs and inventory, providing a quality customer experience, and marketing.

“I’m proud that I run my own little car detailing side business,” he said. “It’s called Southern Shine, and I started it back in ninth grade. It’s slowly grown over time. I’ll soon hand that off to one of my younger brothers, which is a personal accomplishment for me.”

Community service and a drive to volunteer his time and talents is another one of Ussery’s champion qualities. Much of his service has been through local charities he’s connected with at school, church, and through swimming. He assists with fundraising for Lowcountry Dress for Success, a nonprofit that provides low-income students with uniforms for school. Through H2A, he serves as a Side Kick coach, helping young swimmers develop proper techniques. The younger swimmers, called “sidekicks,” are paired up with older swimmers. 

“We spend about 30 minutes with them at each meeting going over strokes or simply talking,” Ussery explained. “The hard thing with swim is that it’s not super social. A lot of the times your head is in the water, so you’re not able to talk to people, so having that experience – especially for the younger kids because they look up to the older kids – to talk and ask for advice is super cool.”

Ussery honed his business acumen and gained some professional experience as an intern with the locally owned, Christian-based consulting company Business On Purpose, whose focus is client processes. As an intern in the field, he interacted with different clients. For example, one day he spent time with a credit card company to help them build out an information sheet that would teach new employees how to file a credit or debit card reader. Another day he worked with a local contractor creating a process video showing new superintendents how to conduct a pre-walk for a house. 

“It was great for me because not only am I learning completely different things,” he said, “but throughout the week, I also got to see how these local businesses run. Plus, they are usually all faith-based, so it’s just really cool to be in that community and in that bubble. I worked at Business On Purpose for two years. Many times, an intern can feel like they’re not doing much more than coffee runs and picking up lunch; however, what I did was fulfilling and brought value to the company, which was great.”

Jessie Barber, director of client connection at Business On Purpose, has nothing but praise for Ussery.

“Jack has been a source of consistent joy during his time with the team at Business On Purpose,” she said. “With whatever task was placed in front of him, he brought a servant’s heart and genuinely cared about the people surrounding him. Even with his incredibly full schedule, he made the time to build relationships and experience the inner workings of businesses in his local area.”

As a bold Christian, Ussery’s goals include not only success in the pool and in the classroom, but to influence younger kids with his faith and accomplishments.

“As a Christian, any time spent in Young Life or with younger kids is extremely important to me,” Ussery said. “What that looks like for me is trying to pour into other kids and help them along the path. I think at the end of the day, a lot of these kids, especially in Bluffton and other small towns, they may think they can’t achieve their dreams. I always tell them, ‘You can do it! You just must set goals the right way and have someone that holds you accountable.’  Ultimately, people are going to remember not what you told them, but how you made them feel. I want to be a light, not only for others, but also be a light for God and spread His word to everyone I can.”

Ussery’s next stop is the U.S. Naval Academy beginning in late June, where he will major in quantitative economics and be on the swim team. His goal is to maximize his academic and athletic potential and answer to what he feels is his call to serve.

“No matter what I accomplish in my life, I want to give all the glory and credit to God,” Ussery said. “I believe that what I do in the pool and in the school is to glorify Him. I swim and compete for the crown and not for the crowd, if that makes sense. Credit does not go to me or to what I’ve done; it all goes to my Heavenly Father.”

One of Ussery’s favorite quotes is, “Every day when you wake up, you have the choice between one of two pains. You have the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.”

He added, “Obviously, the pain of regret lasts much longer, while the pain of discipline is temporary, but behind the other side of the pain is purpose. So that’s about it for me.” 

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