Kenai Peninsula Olympic swimmers Lydia Jacoby and Jillian Crooks took home individual championships at the Alaska School Activities Association State Swim and Dive finals at Bartlett High School in Anchorage last Saturday.
In the pool for Homer, Crooks swam a personal best in her 200-yard freestyle race Saturday with a time of 1:49.85. She broke the 2007 state record of East’s Meghan Cavanaugh of 1:50.02.
In the 100 freestyle, Crooks also finished first, clocking 50.70.
She also swam in the 200-yard freestyle relay race for the Mariners alongside Carly Nelson, McKenna Carlin and Cassidy Carroll, placing third overall at 1:39.26.
Crooks is fresh out of the Olympic sphere, where she qualified for the 100-meter freestyle this summer representing the Cayman Islands. The 15-year-old finished second in her heat but did not advance to the semifinals.
She is off to race in Cali, Colombia, next, and said after her state finish on Saturday that she became close with her Homer teammates.
“We became like friends and then … like family,” Crooks said.
She said she’ll miss swimming with the Mariners.
“They made me cry at the end of the relay,” Crooks said. “(I) hope I get to come back … soon.”
Homer assistant coach Dana Jaworski said on Saturday that Crooks has been a great addition to the squad.
“She has an incredible, positive energy that she brings to both the workouts and just the team at large,” Jaworski said. “She’s always looking to encourage others and serve her teammates.”
She said she was pleased with Homer’s finish at state this year.
“We broke a bunch of records, the girls swam hard all year,” Jaworski said. “We’re really proud of the progress of the team … they rose to the challenge and did great.”
Nelson also had a big meet, taking second in the 100 butterfly at 56.36 and third in the 100 freestyle at 53.05.
She said she tries to clear her mind while she’s in the water.
“You can’t think too much about it, you just know,” Nelson said. “Just do your best.”
She said she was proud of what the Mariners overcame this season, especially with an early season closure at the pool.
“We came from a two-week, three-week break kind of thing,” Nelson said. “And I’ve just been slowly descending my times, so I’m really happy with that.”
Jacoby, the Seward High School senior who swam for the gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke at the Tokyo Olympics this summer, finished first both in her 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2 minutes, 5.70 seconds, and her 100-yard breaststroke race with a time of 59.66 at state Saturday.
Jacoby broke her 2019 state record of 1:00.61 in the breaststroke.
“I’m really excited about it. It means a lot to me to come back and swim well this year,” Jacoby said. “I got first in both events and that was the same that happened freshman year, so it feels really good to come full circle.”
She said some of the pressure of Olympic swimming has subsided since she’s returned home to her old routine.
“This is just normal for me, so it really doesn’t feel that weird,” Jacoby said. “It’s fun to be back and swimming with all my friends.”
Solomon D’ Amico, Seward’s coach, said all of his swimmers have contributed to Jacoby’s success.
“Every one of these kids is honestly a part of this story,” he said after the meet Saturday. “I’m super proud of them.”
D’ Amico said he and the coaching staff have worked to create a program that uplifts the kids in multiple facets, which includes teaching them the “whys” behind their training.
“We want them to know why … so we can coach the human first and the athlete second,” he said.
Mia Nappi also picked up a top six for the Seahawks, finishing sixth in the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:00.71.
Abriella Werner led Soldotna, taking fourth in diving by racking up 346.35 points.
Kenai coach William Hubler said he was happy with his team, led by the sixth place finish from Koda Poulin in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:03.04.
“They did good, they swam some of the best times,” he said. “So I was happy with them.”
Hubler gave special recognition to Hager Elserry, a foreign exchange student from Egypt, who swam with Kenai at state.
“She did really good, coming here and swimming two events,” he said.