In exactly one month, star swimmer Lydia Jacoby will be in the pool in Omaha, N.E. for the U.S. Olympic Trials.
More immediately, she’s finishing her junior year at Seward High School. At just 17, Jacoby has the sixth-fastest time for the 100-meter breaststroke in the world. She’s been qualified for the Olympic trials since she was 14.
“Basically my entire swimming career up to that point has kind of been building up to that meet," Jacoby said. "So it’s definitely a lot of pressure, I suppose. And in some ways, it doesn't really feel like real or represent because it just has been this big event out in the future for so long.”
Jacoby's also ranked number three of all time in the U.S. in her age group and 14 of all time among all U.S. women.
“I do kind of like to impress upon her that she can’t really lose at this point. She’s already done so much," said Solomon D'Amico, who's coached Jacoby in Seward for the last several years. Jacoby’s been part of the Seward Tsunami Swim Club since she was six.
This year has been a strange year for training and competein. The Olympic Trials were pushed back, along with the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. And at the beginning of the pandemic, pools were closed.
“So I was out of the water," Jacoby said.
Even after others opened, the Seward pool stayed closed, in part due to maintenance on the facility. So Jacoby stayed with family up in Anchorage over the summer and trained with the Northern Lights Swim Club.
“Up there, there’s a lot more kids my age so it’s just been a lot of fun and motivating training up there," she said.
Jacoby said Alaska swimming is a great community. Even as her Seward swim friends started picking up other activities and leaving the sport behind, she'd get to meet swimmers from all over at statewide meets.
“And so that was very motivating at that time," Jacoby said. "Both those things were happening at once, I was meeting new friends around the state while my friends at home moved onto other things.”
But Jacoby stuck with swimming. This year, she committed to the University of Texas at Austin — one of several Division I schools that was wooing her for their team.
“I just felt a really strong connection with the coaches and I feel like they really care about me as a person and a team member and not just a number," she said.
In college, Jacoby plans to study textile and apparel management and design. She said she's always loved clothes.
“And maybe a double major or minor in business," she added.
Clothes are one, but not the only manifestation of Jacoby’s artistic spirit. Right before the pandemic, she had an exhibit of her film photography up in Seward. She also sings and plays guitar, piano and upright bass.
D’Amico said she’s extremely self motivated across the board. When it comes to swimming, he said she’s more process than outcome focused.
“Which, as a coach, looking at the sport psychology side of things, that's really the way you want your athless to approach things," he said.
That mentality manifests in how she thinks about her Olympic prospects. She has a good shot at making the Olympic team — she came in second at a recent meet behind world record holder and reigning Olympic champ Lilly King.
But she said she won’t feel unaccomplished if she doesn’t make the team.
“Because where I was a year ago going into trials before it was postponed, I was nowhere near making the team," she said. "And I just have so much further to go with my swimming career. This is just the beginning.”
D’Amico agrees. He said at this point, she’s playing with house money.
Watch Lydia Jacoby swim in Mission Viejo here.
Listen to Jacoby and her band, Snow River String Band, here.