Rising Alaskan Star Lydia Jacoby Confident, Ready to Contend at Olympic Trials

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Lydia Jacoby; Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Rising Alaskan Star Lydia Jacoby Confident, Ready to Contend at Olympic Trials

As the new kid on the American women’s breaststroke block, Lydia Jacoby has to remind herself not to be daunted. When she’s in the same ready room as Lilly King and Annie Lazor and Molly Hannis and the rest of the leading lights of one of the U.S.’s deepest events, it takes the 17-year-old a moment to remember that the distance in the pool to those stars is small … and getting smaller all the time.

A year ago, that would’ve been a tougher sell to Jacoby. But now, as she approaches the Olympic Trials a year older, wiser and much faster, she’s not just in a steadier place mentally. She’s a legitimate threat to get to Tokyo.

“I feel like I’ve grown a lot both physically and mentally this year,” Jacoby told Swimming World. “Last year, I think I would’ve done well but didn’t have any shot of actually making the team. And this year, I feel like I have just as good of a shot as any of the other top six women. I’m very excited to see what happens and I think even if I don’t make it, I’m in a really good place where I’m so young and won’t be losing anything.”

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Lydia Jacoby; Photo Courtesy: @lydiaalicee_

Jacoby proved herself at last month’s TYR Pro Swim Series in Mission Viejo. She set a best time in the 100 breast at 1:06.38, finishing second to King. Behind her in that final were Lazor, Hannis, Emily Escobedo and a raft of other contenders for what is presumed to be the second spot in Tokyo with King, the reigning Olympic champ and world record holder, the heavy favorite.

Jacoby’s time ranks third among the American contingent, trailing only King and Lazor since the beginning of 2019. It offers a major confidence boost heading into Trials.

“That race was really exciting because give or take a few women, that was the same heat that’s going to be swimming finals at Olympic Trials,” Jacoby said. “So it was kind of fun to be able to race with them and having them all together. I’ve raced a lot of them when it’s just one or two of them, but it’s nice having them all in the pool.”

Jacoby is less of a contender in the 200 breast, though she continues to drop time at a frantic pace. She was ninth in Mission Viejo in 2:27.39, a best time by more than five seconds. Since the beginning of 2019, she ranks 16th among Americans in that event.

Mission Viejo was her last meet before Trials, with the last weeks of a two-and-a-half-year wait for Trials focused solely on training.

Jacoby has time on her side. She won’t graduate high school until 2022, and her future is pledged to the University of Texas. She’s part of a wave of young swimmers who could find the extra year from the COVID-19 postponement of the Tokyo Olympics accelerating their chase for an Olympic spot.

But Jacoby is unique in one big way: She’s vying to be the first Olympic swimmer ever from Alaska. She’s uniquely qualified to represent the state, having lived there her entire life. Her pandemic training was a pan-Alaskan affair: When pools in her native Seward, where she trains with Seward Tsunami Swim Club, closed, she shuttled two-plus hours away to Anchorage, where her family rents a home. That allowed her to train at Northern Lights Swim Club.

Jacoby started swimming when she was six and jumped headlong into it by middle school. She ran track at Seward High School her freshman year, around the time she qualified for Olympic Trials at age 14.

The elongated wait to Trials is nearly at an end. It might prove to be the beginning to so much more. And when she’s in Omaha, Jacoby will be carrying her Alaskan community close to her heart.

“I think it’s really neat,” she said. “A lot of top-notch swimmers come from big teams in the lower 48 that attract the best of the best. It’s really cool to come from a different background and know that I’m doing essentially the same thing as those other teams.

“I have a lot of support within Alaska and especially the Alaska swimming community. I get a lot of support from my coaches and swimmers all over the state because I think one of the cool things is … once you get out of state, everyone kind of knows each other so we kind of come together as one team. So I think that’s really cool to have that support.”

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