Seward freshman Lydia Jacoby races in the girls 50-yard butterfly Sept. 14, at the SoHi Pentathlon in the Soldotna High School pool. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Seward freshman Lydia Jacoby races in the girls 50-yard butterfly Sept. 14, at the SoHi Pentathlon in the Soldotna High School pool. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

State swimmers eye records, personal bests at state

She’s done it twice so far. The third time should be the charm.

After swimming under the current state record time in the girls 100-yard breaststroke, Seward freshman Lydia Jacoby is eyeing the record books for real this Saturday at the Alaska School Activities Association state swimming and diving championships at Bartlett High School.

Jacoby unofficially broke the 2010 record of 1:04.50 by Kodiak’s Laura Griffing at the Seward Invitational held Sept. 29 in her home pool, then eclipsed it again at last week’s Northern Lights Conference championships in Homer with a personal best of 1:03.05.

After her region record swim, Jacoby said she is targeting a sub-1:02 time this weekend.

“It felt really good to know I can swim that, and now I’m going for the state record officially,” Jacoby said. “Before I’m done with high school, I want to break a minute.”

Entering the weekend, Jacoby is by far the top seeded swimmer in the event, as the next best time comes from West Valley’s Anastasia Chen, whose time of 1:07.90 is nearly five seconds slower.

The scary thing is, Jacoby isn’t even scheduled to peak this weekend. Seward head coach Meghan O’Leary said Jacoby is headed to Greensboro, North Carolina, for the Winter National Championships at the end of November.

Still, O’Leary is prepared to see any time that Jacoby might pop at state.

“She’s going to do what she’s going to do,” O’Leary said. “She’s very driven and in a good spot with her training. I think we’ll all be impressed.”

Jacoby is also expected to be a contender in the girls 200 IM, a race she won last weekend at the region meet. Jacoby is seeded second with a time of 2:11.86, while top seed Dreamer Kowatch of Dimond is the favorite with a 2:10.82 this season. O’Leary said Jacoby’s chances of doubling at state are good, but she will need to put together a full 200 IM to beat Kowatch.

“She’s mainly focused on that breaststroke,” O’Leary said. “It’s going to be a challenge because Dreamer is really strong in all the strokes.”

Jacoby is also joined by her teammate from the boys side, Connor Spanos, who emerged victorious in the boys 100 butterfly last weekend at regions to punch his automatic spot. Spanos enters the state meet seeded third in the event, but has some distance between himself and the top two swimmers, who are both two seconds ahead in seeding times. Spanos is also entered in the boys 200 freestyle event.

O’Leary said Spanos is eyeing the Seward boys school record in the event, which is held by her brother and 2011 Seward grad Ryan O’Leary, who has the current Seahawks record with a time of 53.56 seconds. Spanos’ seed time is 54.08, but O’Leary said he has gone under 54, so her brother’s mark is in trouble.

“I think he could, but it’s going to be tough,” she said. “He wants it, but so does everybody else.”

Last week’s boys second-place team, the Kenai Kardinals, are also swimming into the state meet with some momentum. Kenai qualified 10 total athletes, eight of those boys, as well as three boys relays.

The squad is led by senior Savaii Heaven, who punched his spot in two individual event by winning region titles in the 100 freestyle and the 100 backstroke.

Heaven enters state second in the backstroke with a time of 53.52 seconds, more than a second off the top mark of Service’s Brian Jarupakorn, and is also seeded fourth in the 100 free.

Even after taking a dominant victory in the 100 backstroke at regions, Heaven said he had his eye on the bigger names in the state.

“I’m more worried about the times than the wins,” he said. “The way I look at it, if you take a big enough pool of people, there’s going to be some really fast people, so you should really race yourself than other people.”

Heaven is also part of the boys 200 freestyle relay, along with Sorin Sorensen, Owen Rolph and Koda Poulin. The other qualifying relay, the boys 400 free team, will be Poulin, Peter Anderson, Dominic Alioto and Trevor Bagley.

Rolph is also seeded in the top half of the boys 100 butterfly field in eighth, after finishing fourth at regions in the event.

Kenai’s two female state qualifiers are Rachael Pitsch in the 500 free and Riley Reese in the 100 free. Pitsch finished second in the 500-yard endurance race at the region meet.

The Soldotna swim program qualified 11 total athletes, along with two girls relays, a week after finishing second at the NLC meet. The SoHi girls narrowly lost the region team race last weekend to Palmer, which head coach Angie Brennan attributed to Palmer being able to pick up a few more events wins than the Stars, which only got one victory with Madison Snyder in the girls 500 freestyle.

Brennan, however, is prepared to see out the prep season with a bang, saying after the region meet that the Stars are ready to peak at state.

“I think we’re going to have a blast,” Brennan said. “I think we’re going to be looking pretty good, we’ll be able to represent on both sides.”

The Stars have two girls relays qualified in the 200 free and the 400 free races. Madelyn Barkman, Alex Juliussen and Madelyn Brennan will make up both relays, while Kortney Birch will swim the 200 free relay and Madison Snyder will be on the 400 free relay.

Sydney Juliussen finished second in the girls 50 free, and is seeded eighth at state in both the 50 and 100 free sprint races.

NLC boys diving champion Kylin Welch is seeded second at state with a season high of 497.60 points, just a tick behind the top seed Houlton Dannenberg of West Anchorage, who enters with a top score of 499.20 points. Last week after winning the region crown, Welch sounded the alarm for other contenders.

“I’m hoping to win state next week,” Welch said. “My biggest competition is (Dannenberg). We’ve competed against each other pretty close, and he passed me up at state last year, and we competed again at Chugiak, and I beat him again. We’ve gone back and forth.”

Sam Skolnick finished second to Welch to cap a SoHi 1-2 finish at the region meet, and is seeded fourth this weekend.

Also for the SoHi boys, Ethan Evans is seeded third in the 50 free, after finishing a close second in the sprint event at regions, and is seeded sixth in the 100 butterfly, another race he took a close second in last week.

“He always wants to win,” Brennan said. “State is where it’s at for him, so we’ll be watching him.”

Hosting last week’s NLC championship meet, the Homer swim program had a solid showing at home by qualifying 14 total athletes and three relays to the state meet.

The Mariners finished the region meet with victories in the girls 200 medley relay and the boys 50 freestyle, won by Clayton Arndt. Arndt won the boys 50 free to punch his automatic ticket to state, and is seeded second overall this weekend. His biggest competition is Service’s Caleb Law, whose top time of 21 seconds flat is over a second faster than Arndt’s 22.38. Arndt is also seeded sixth in the 100 free, and is a big part of the boys 200 free relay, along with Teddy Handley, Jakob Nelson and Skyler Rodriguez.

On the girls side, Madison Story is looking to avenge a disappointing weekend after finishing second in the girls 200 IM and suffering a disqualification in the girls 100 backstroke.

Story said after the meet that she is looking to make up for her region weekend.

“It’s very disappointing because I had the fastest time in the state this year (in the backstroke),” Story said.

Story is seeded fifth in the 200 IM, and is also part of the region championship 200 medley relay team — along with Kaylin Anderson, Alia Bales and Adeline Berry — and the 200 free relay, with Berry, Bales and Ella Blanton-Yourkowski.

Story said her lone individual race will be a battle to get on the podium, as her good friend and Seward rival Jacoby is also contending in the field.

“It’s going to be hard,” she said. “I’m going to try to get ahead in the first half of the race, so I can just … so she doesn’t get ahead of me in the end.”

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