Jarod Hatch, a 2017 Sobrato High graduate and one of the top three swimmers to come out of the South Valley area in the last 25 years, is posting some fast times for the Philippine national team on the international stage. Photo courtesy of Jarod Hatch.

Jarod Hatch had to figure out who he was out of the water before he could start reaching his potential in the pool. 

And that’s exactly what’s happening with the 2017 Sobrato High graduate and one of the top swimmers on the Philippine national team. Since coming out of retirement last October, all Hatch has done is swim his fastest times ever. 

Hatch will compete in the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. The event is a 2024 Olympic Games qualifier so it goes without saying the stakes are high. The Championships run July 14-30 but Hatch’s races—the 50 meter and 100 meter butterfly—don’t start until the 24th. 

Hatch, who graduated from UC Berkeley (Cal) in 2021 and currently resides in Orange County—where he balances training, coaching clinics and his job as a customer success manager at Trovo—can’t wait to get to Japan and compete against some of the world’s best swimmers. 

“Besides the Olympics, this is the biggest meet you can do,” said Hatch, who started competing for the Philippine national team in 2018 as his mom, Gielanie, is Filipino. “I’ve never been there before, so it’s really exciting because I don’t know what to expect. A little nervous but good nerves. It’s a lot bigger than the Sea Games—this is the World Championships.”

Hatch was referring to the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, which was held May 5-17 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. While the SEA Games are highly competitive, the World Aquatics Championships are a step up in competition. 

But if his SEA Games performance was any indication, Hatch is more than ready for the challenge. Hatch was competing in the Southeast Asian Games for the second time in his career, the first coming in 2019. He won his first-ever medals, both bronze, in his two best events, the 50 and 100 fly. 

He also helped the Philippine mixed medley relay team break the national team record en route to a silver medal. Hatch also achieved personal-bests in both of his individual races, finishing in 23.89 seconds in the 50 fly and 52.91 seconds in the 100 fly—the first time ever he’s gone sub 53 in the event. 

Hatch will need to shave off over a second in the event to make the 2024 Olympics, as 51.79 is the ‘B’ cut time (the 50 fly isn’t contested at the Olympics). But given how much he’s improved in such a short span of time—remember, Hatch has only been back in hard training since October—he’s optimistic about a continual lowering of times. 

“It’s looking pretty good,” he said.  

No kidding. When Hatch retired in May 2021, he was beaten down and worn out both physically and mentally. In one of his final competitions before retiring, Hatch heaved his cap out of the pool after his relay team got disqualified. 

In an interview on Philippine CNN, Hatch admitted to being angry and acting out of emotion, and the incident “also helped snowball into what I would say my depression in the sport, where I didn’t want to swim anymore.”

Having hit a plateau in his times, Hatch was struggling mentally, and admitted he let negative comments—either physically or via social media—affect him negatively to the point where it brought him down. 

“I wasn’t happy,” he said. “I was burned out so I took that year off wondering if I could do it. It eventually got to the point, ‘OK, maybe I do need to come back.’”

Hatch was ultra productive in his time away from the sport, as it was a journey of self-discovery and improvement. 

“It was about making sure to take care of myself as an individual, making sure I’m [mentally] healthy because all I’ve ever done at that point in my life was swimming,” he said. “The second I stopped swimming, I did not know what to do with my life. Once I figured out who I am without the pool, that’s when I was able to come back.”

So who is Jarod Hatch outside the pool?

“I am a person who always wants to leave a positive interaction, a positive effect, a positive benefit, in whoever I come across or interact with,” he said. “I want to spread positivity in everything I’m doing. I’m not going to save the world, I’m not going to be a superhero, but for everyone I come across, I hope to leave a good effect.”

In his time away from swimming, Hatch learned a lot by talking with therapists and reading and watching a variety of books and documentaries. From those, he seized certain application points and directly applied them to his life.

He wanted to get into the mind of great coaches like Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, along with all-time NBA greats LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. 

“The LeBron and Kobe documentaries, seeing how those athletes think and perform at the top level, one thing that sticks with me is if I want to be an Olympian one day, the first step is believing you’re at that level,” Hatch said. “I need to have the mindset that I’m here, I’m an Olympic level swimmer and I’m going to operate that way. If I don’t think that way, then it’s what do I need to change to operate at that level? Having more confidence [is key]. If I want to race in Paris, I need to act like that, I need to carry myself like that. Once I started to realize that, that’s when I took charge of my career.” 

Hatch has had sessions with therapists around spiritual enlightenment to work on areas of his life and make sure his mental health is in a good spot. He said the book that really made an impact on him was Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, which helped Hatch realize life isn’t as stressful as people make it out to be. 

“I’ve been really building off that [and having that mindset],” he said. 

When Hatch graduated from Sobrato, he left with 11 school records, an individual Central Coast Section championship in the 200 freestyle—one of just a handful of CCS title champions from the South Valley in the last 10 years—and a pair of runner-up finishes along with a third-place in the CIF State Championships spanning his junior and senior year. 

Even though all of Hatch’s immediate family has relocated to Southern California, he still remains close to one local, renowned figure: South Valley Makos’ Tom Lebherz, Hatch’s first coach once Hatch dropped all of the other sports he was playing at 12 to focus on swimming. 

“I love that guy,” Hatch said. “He’s the best and is like a grandpa to me. Him and I out of all the swimmers that he’s had, we are definitely the closest. … He cares so much about the sport and his swimmers. That man will be on deck until he dies. I’ve told him, ‘You’re going to die on the deck [doing what you love].’ He says, ‘I know, I’m prepared.’ He’s got the biggest heart.”

Jarod Hatch has set PRs in both of his best events, the 50 and 100 meter butterfly, in 2023. Photo courtesy of Hatch.
Jarod Hatch has gone sub 24 in the 50 fly and sub 53 in the 100 fly this season. Photo courtesy of Jarod Hatch.
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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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