Olympic gold medalists and world-record holders qualified for the U.S. swim team at the Olympic Trials on Tuesday night. It looks like they’ll be joined by 17-year-old Lydia Jacoby, who would be the first Alaskan to swim at an Olympics.
Jacoby took second to the world’s top breaststroker, Lilly King, in the 100m breast in Omaha to all but clinch a spot on the team for Tokyo. It should be confirmed later in the eight-day meet that finishes Sunday, once enough swimmers qualify in multiple events so that the total roster doesn’t exceed 26 women.
“It means so much,” Jacoby said. “I’m so honored to be able to represent my state in a meet like this. I’m so excited to be able to now represent my country as well.”
All of the favorites won the four finals on Tuesday — King, Regan Smith and Ryan Murphy in the 100m backstrokes and Kieran Smith in the 200m freestyle.
Second-place finishers were unusual. Rhyan White was ranked 41st in the U.S. in the women’s 100m back in 2019. Hunter Armstrong was 19th in the men’s 100m back in 2019.
Then there’s Jacoby, who since April 8 dropped 2.29 seconds off her personal best in a 65-second race. She swims in goggles given to her by 2012 U.S. Olympian Jessica Hardy at a USA Swimming Foundation clinic in Alaska four years ago.
She entered Trials seeded third in the nation. She now ranks second in the world this year, behind only King, the Olympic and world champion and world-record holder.
Jacoby hails from Seward, a city on Resurrection Bay, a fjord of the Gulf of Alaska. The state has one Olympic-size pool, two hours from Jacoby’s home, but they halve it save one meet a year, she said on a Swimswam podcast after her April breakout.
Jacoby, committed to swim for the University of Texas in 2022, is multi-talented. She sang and played the bass for the Snow River String Band, performing bluegrass at the Anchorage Folk Festival. Her columns for SHS Today at Seward High School included a series on the 1940s.
“I have lived in Seward my entire life but hope to live somewhere else when I grow up,” her writer bio reads. “Most of you probably know that I’m a competitive swimmer.”
During the pandemic, Jacoby’s home facility was closed for eight months. So she moved to Anchorage for the summer. She was still out of pools for two months, so she went water skiing. She skied on trails outside her front door, popping at least one headphone out to stay alert to bears and moose. When snow melted, she ran on ice cleats.
Much of this is also on Jacoby’s Wikipedia page, created on May 8.
In other events Tuesday, 19-year-old Regan Smith won the 100m back, an event where she held the world record until Sunday. Smith clocked 58.35 seconds, nine tenths off the new record set by Kaylee McKeown at the Australian Olympic Trials. White took second in 58.60, edging world bronze medalist Olivia Smoliga for the likely second Olympic spot.
World-record holder Murphy won the men’s 100m back so he can defend his Olympic title in Tokyo. Murphy prevailed by .15 over Armstrong. Matt Grevers, the 2012 Olympic champion, finished sixth in what may have been his final Olympic Trials race.
Kieran Smith became the first man to win both the 200m and 400m frees at an Olympic Trials, claiming the former in a personal-best 1:45.29. Townley Haas, who won the 2016 Olympic Trials, took second, .37 behind, to join him on the Olympic team. The medal favorites around the globe can break 1:45. Drew Kibler and Andrew Seliskar were next and qualified for their first Games in the 4x200m free relay.
In semifinals, Katie Ledecky qualified fastest into Wednesday night’s 200m freestyle final. Ledecky will swim finals in the 200m free and the 1500m free about an hour apart on Wednesday, a double that she has done at major international meets.
Luca Urlando and Zach Harting shared the top time to qualify for the first Olympic Trials 200m butterfly final without Michael Phelps since 1996. Urlando, 19 and the grandson of an Italian Olympic hammer thrower, is the fastest American since the start of 2019 by more than a second. Urlando broke Phelps’ national-age group record for 17- and 18-year-olds two years ago.
Alex Walsh, 19, was the fastest qualifier into the women’s 200m individual medley final, clocking a personal best.
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