By JEFF HELMINIAK
On June 15, the first day schools could contact her for recruiting, Seward junior swimmer Lydia Jacoby received about 40 emails.
Jacoby talked to most of the schools at least once. In late November, she ended the recruiting process by orally committing to the University of Texas.
“It’s a really amazing process to get recruited at that level with so many schools that want you,” she said. “At the same time, it’s stressful when you are only 16 and don’t know what you want.
“That’s a huge expectation — to know what you want. It’s a really nice thing to have off the table. I’m excited about Texas.”
Texas, one of the top swimming programs in the nation, and all the other schools are excited about Jacoby because she is one of the best junior breaststrokers this country has seen.
In mid-November, Jacoby won a national title in the 100-meter breaststroke at the 2020 Toyota U.S. Open Championships, which were held synchronously at nine regional sites around the country.
Jacoby actually was second in the race, but won because the race winner is a German citizen. Jacoby’s time of 1 minute, 7.57 seconds, put her second all-time among American girls 15 and 16 years old. The top mark is Megan Jendrick’s 1:07.05 from 2000.
Also at the meet, Jacoby qualified for the Olympic trials in the 200 breaststroke. She had previously qualified for the trials in the 100 breaststroke. The trials are currently scheduled for June 2021 in Omaha, Nebraska.
Jacoby chose to swim the U.S. Open Championships in San Antonio, Texas, because by July she had developed a strong interest in the University of Texas.
“I had a great connection with the coaches there,” she said. “The more I got to know about the academics and athletics, the more I loved it.”
While in the Lower 48, Jacoby also visited Notre Dame, N.C. State and the University of Tennessee. When she returned to Alaska, she took a COVID test, quarantined and took less than a week to decide on Texas.
Seward is a city of less than 3,000, while Texas has undergraduate enrollment of just over 40,000. Texas is in Austin, which has just less than 1 million people.
“I’ve always known I wanted to go to college in a big city,” Jacoby said. “I always loved visiting big cities. There’s all types of people doing different, interesting things. There’s so many opportunities outside of the school and athletic stuff.”
Jacoby said right now she’s interested in fashion design and management, but she said that could change. Texas is big enough to accommodate that change.
The women’s swimming and diving coach for the Longhorns is Carol Capitani. She has led Texas to top-10 finishes in the NCAA meet in six of her eight seasons, with the 2020 meet getting canceled due to the new coronavirus pandemic.
“I am really proud to be able to go there and be able to represent a school that is so good at what it does,” Jacoby said. “I’m excited to train with the best and be coached by the best.”
At the same time, Jacoby intends to stay close to her roots.
“I think once I go to college that won’t really change anything about my role in Alaska swimming,” Jacoby said. “Alaska swimming is a huge part of my success. It’s something I need to remember forever and not lose the connections I’ve always had.”
With the pool currently closed in Seward, Jacoby is training with the Northern Lights Swim Club in Anchorage. She’d like to get some big meets in before the Olympic Trials this summer, but said her plans are up in the air right now with so much changing due to the pandemic.
Faletoi nets first-team all-conference
Aaron Faletoi, a 2020 graduate of Soldotna High School, earned first-team all-North Star Athletic Association Football All-Conference honors Monday.
Faletoi, a freshman at Dickinson State in North Dakota, made the first team at defensive line and was joined there by Presley Piliati, a senior from Anchorage.
At 6-foot-2, 260 pounds, Faletoi made seven tackles for loss. He had 17 tackles overall, with two sacks and a fumble recovery.
The Blue Hawks finished with a 9-0 record to take a sixth straight conference title. The playoffs will be in the spring.