Seward swim coaches honored for their work with Olympic champion Lydia Jacoby

They didn’t win the gold, but a pair of Seward Tsunami Swim Club coaches got a share of the silver when the American Swimming Coaches Association bestowed its coach of the year award Thursday.

Meghan O’Leary and Sol D’Amico were among the finalists for the George Haines Coach of the Year Award, which went to Gregg Troy, who helped guide Caeleb Dressel to five gold medals at the recent Tokyo Olympics.

Three other coaches were also in the running for the award.

O’Leary and D’Amico earned their nomination for their work with Seward teenager Lydia Jacoby, who won the gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke and swam a leg on the U.S. women’s silver-medal medley relay team in Tokyo.

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O’Leary and D’Amico watched Jacoby’s triumphs at watch parties in Seward, where Jacoby began swimming as a little girl.

Seward’s only pool measures 25 meters, half the length of an Olympic-sized pool. In order to prepare Jacoby for big meets in 50-meter pools, coaches relied on ingenuity and technology.

O’Leary told Swimming World magazine that coaches watched videos from long-course races to get their star ready. “They used video analysis of long course races to figure out stroke counts and tempos, and she would practice turns and finishes using that long course tempo,” Swimming World said.

D’Amico, meanwhile, focused on strength-training workouts for Jacoby, a 17-year-old high school senior.

After Jacoby’s stunning gold-medal swim, O’Leary told Swimming World her emotions ranged from joy to validation.

“It’s hard to explain the feeling,” she said. “Professionally, I’m not sure what it means. I still consider myself a young coach. I’m only 30, and I never swam at the level that she does. I’m learning the process along with her.”

Beth Bragg

Beth Bragg wrote about sports and other topics for the ADN for more than 35 years, much of it as sports editor. She retired in October 2021. She's contributing coverage of Alaskans involved in the 2022 Winter Olympics.