Seward swimmer Lydia Jacoby poses before an event at the USA Swimming Winter National Championship meet in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Photo provided by Meghan O’Leary)

Seward swimmer Lydia Jacoby poses before an event at the USA Swimming Winter National Championship meet in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Photo provided by Meghan O’Leary)

Jacoby punches Olympic swimming qualifier spot at Winter Nationals

Fourteen-year-old swimmer Lydia Jacoby burst onto the Alaska state prep scene this year, and is now quickly paving a path to her future.

Four weeks after winning two state titles at the Alaska state high school meet, Jacoby punched her ticket to the U.S. Olympic qualifying trials with a dazzling weekend at the USA Swimming Winter Nationals meet in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Jacoby, a freshman at Seward High School, won Friday’s B-final to finish ninth overall in the women’s 100-yard breaststroke, making the Olympic qualifying cut in the process with a time of 1 minute, 10.45 seconds. The US qualifying standard is 1:10.99. Jacoby lowered her own personal record by six-tenths of a second.

Saturday, Jacoby kept the good vibes rolling with a big swim in the women’s 200-yard breaststroke, placing 22nd overall after making it to the C-final. Jacoby started the weekend seeded 42nd in the event.

Jacoby’s coach Meghan O’Leary said the weekend served as a huge confidence builder and important meet for Jacoby to experience.

“It’s making me evaluate how we’re doing in our training,” O’Leary said about her pupil. “It’s a jump in time, and we’re doing things right.”

The Winter Nationals serve as the first meet of several that national-level swimmers can use to put in a qualifying time for the U.S. Olympic trials. The Olympic trials are set for June 2020, and Jacoby’s time in the 100 breaststroke guaranteed her a spot should she commit to it.

“A year and a half is some time to work with,” O’Leary said. “And she’s young, so it’s kind of nice to have that to play with.”

At 14, Jacoby was one of the youngest swimmers at the meet, which hosts swimmers from a wide age ranger, from high school to the professional levels. O’Leary said Jacoby was able to rub shoulders with some of the country’s best talent.

“We were sitting on the same bleacher with (Olympic gold medalist) Simone Manuel, and (five-time Olympic gold medalist) Katie Ledecky was hanging out in the warm-up lane next to her, and we saw all these huge names.”

As it stands, Jacoby is now only one of a handful of Alaskan swimmers to clinch a spot at the US Olympic trials, should she commit to it.

With her biggest meet behind her now, O’Leary said Jacoby’s season isn’t over, stating that she will be back in the water next Saturday for the Candy Cane Invitational club meet. Jacoby competes for the Seward Tsunami Swim Club.

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