Seward Olympic gold medalist Lydia Jacoby, fresh off her Tokyo victory, continues to set breaststroke records for swimmers in her age group, this time at the 2021 FINA World Cup, a world-class top level swim series. In Berlin at the first leg, Jacoby swam a 1:05.20 in the 100 short course meters finals, winning her a bronze and breaking Lilly King’s 2014 American junior SCM record of 1:06.32. The records are unofficial due to the difference in pool measurements between America and the rest of the world, where the metric system is favored over the imperial system.
“You can consider this a completely new race because there are twice as many turns,” said Jacoby’s coach Solomon D’Amico, “so there’s a much higher emphasis on that technical proficiency: the approach into the wall, the stroke timing, the actual turn itself, then coming off the wall, the pullout, which in breaststroke consists of a dolphin kick, a pulldown and a recovery.”
In the final of the 50m breaststroke, Jacoby won a silver medal, with another USA junior record time, clocking in at 30.04. In the 200m, she swam a 2:24.99, a lifetime best in the short course meter. Coach Solomon D’Amico accompanied Jacoby and her mother Leslie to the meet and said that the shorter events allowed both swimmer and coach to learn from the many experts present at the meet.
“It was really educational and just a wonderful opportunity and experience for me to go out and ask these guys to teach me so we can help make her a more complete swimmer,” D’Amico said. “We got a lot of really good information, and we put it to use right away in little adjustments and changes in technique on the pullout. On a few of the races she actually had the best pullout out of the race, and that’s world class competition.”
According to D’Amico, Jacoby had noted that even in statewide meets, she had previously been beatable in the pullout, and that her improvement was considerable.
“We’re still getting better, technique-wise, and then conditioning-wise we’ve been maintaining, but we’re looking forward to having a few really good blocks of training to improve that aspect as well, so things are still really exciting and moving in a really great direction.”
At the second FINA World Cup leg in Budapest, Jacoby went on to take home a silver with a time of 1:05.40, just .2 seconds over her bronze-winning Berlin time. She also clocked a time of 29.97, breaking 30 seconds for the first time in the 50m, for another silver win.
Meanwhile back home, D’Amico has rejoined coaches Greer Etheridge, Myriah Ariza-Belter, Andy Koster, Cassidy Kelly, and Al Plan to prep Jacoby’s Seward High teammates for upcoming relays on both boys and girls teams, with new freshmen additions Noah Bird and Judah Brueckner joining the team after the completion of football season. Hallee Schoening and Rheana Smith have joined the girls, as both teams prepare for upcoming relays.
“I brought back some more swim knowledge from both observation of world class swimmers and then also rubbing elbows with world class coaches, so we’re installing some stuff there and getting the more seasoned kids like Mia Nappi, Jackson Bird, Paxton Hill, Peter Spanos, Wren Dougherty, Oliver Trobaugh, and twins Ben and Nick Ambrosiani, we’re getting new, fun material for them to work with while mixing in these new kids. It’s really a fun coaching challenge and opportunity, interweaving all these different dynamics.”
A and B teams are being assembled for a boys relay in Palmer this weekend, D’Amico said, with a potential girls relay team also in the works, to compete either this weekend or next.
“Our boys are maybe going to sneak back into eighth or better spot and qualify for state,” D’Amico said, “and then we’ll see with our girls. We haven’t had a full complement of girls at a meet this season.”
Currently the team is working to improve its state standing in the hopes of qualifying, but Coach D’Amico maintains motivation by focusing his swimmers on the process, not just the outcome, and maintaining the balance to best cultivate the team for breakthroughs in the performance.
“These kids have mostly been doing two-a-day practices all season,” he said. “Not overworking, but working really, really well. They’ve got weight room three times a week in the mornings before school, and that really ties them together. The weight room and the strength training, we’re getting a really great benefit from that, and we’re right on the cusp of seeing some really good performances due to that and also due to, just this season, they’ve been working really hard but working really smart and learning a lot and having a lot of fun.”