One year ago, Kirsten Jacobsen stood on the pool deck as a 15-year-old at the USA Swimming Junior National Championships and found herself a bit caught up in the moment.
“It was my first big meet and it was really nerve-wracking,” said Jacobsen, who was competing for the Barrington Swim Club and is a junior at Barrington. “I was relieved when it was over but excited to have the experience, and I knew I could come back and do a lot better.”
That is precisely what Jacobsen did at this year’s meet, capping a tremendous summer for the Barrington Swim Club. Its girls and boys swimmers established 42 new club records.
Jacobsen placed 11th in the 800-meter freestyle with a time of 2 minutes, 3.31 seconds at Junior Nationals (July 31-Aug. 3) in Irvine, California. She was competing with girls as old as 18. She placed 14th in the 1500-meter freestyle (16:14). Her other events were the 100-, 200- and 400-meter freestyles.
“I had the chance to swim in a final heat and they walk you out to music and everyone in [the crowd] is there for the finals,” she said.
Club coach Rob Emary said Jacobsen made the most of her trip to the national meet.
“She had some real significant time drops,” he said.
Jacobsen said she enjoyed this year’s trip a little more more because some of her teammates also qualified. Maggie Emary and Val Tarazi also competed with her at nationals.
“It was a lot more fun to have teammates with you and to have people cheering for you other than family,” Jacobsen said. “I was proud of how they did in their first Junior Nationals; they both dropped some time and did very well.”
Maggie Emary, who will be a freshman at Barrington, said she benefits from training with Jacobsen each day in practice.
“It’s nice having a person that’s faster than you who works really hard,” Maggie Emary said. “She’s done stuff that I’m trying to do now and gives me some good advice.”
Maggie Emary said her biggest takeaway from the Junior Nationals was how deep the field was.
“Everyone was fast,” she said. “I had to take it out harder and focus on all the little things.”
Although none of the boys qualified for Junior Nationals, they still made a big contribution to the club’s success. Mitch Gavars placed second in the 1500 freestyle at the Illinois Long Course Senior Championships. At the same competition, teammate Colin O’Leary was seventh in the 100-meter backstroke and Colin Cross was seventh in the 200-meter breaststroke.
Gavars in particular made significant improvement this summer.
“He dropped buckets and buckets of time,” Rob Emary said. “He understands what he’s good at and what he needs to work on. He’s a real student of the sport.”