By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
If there was a defined blueprint for the path that standout high school swimmers need to take to reach the Olympics, it would probably look a lot like the one Glendora’s Gretchen Jaques is following. Of course, talent and ability to swim at such a high level would be the first ingredients, and few people have them. Jaques does, and as she gets ready to put the exclamation point on what’s been a stellar prep career, one can’t help but think ahead.
Beginning with Friday’s prelims, Jaques will go for a career sweep of her individual events at the CIF- Southern Section Division 2 championship meet at Belmont Plaza Pool in Long Beach. Finals are set for Saturday. (To continue click thread).
“I’m sure every athlete wants to go to the Olympics,” said Jaques, who’ll attend Texas next fall, “but the bigger goal for me right now is to focus on once I get to Texas and the NCAAs and the national championships.
“Hopefully, I will help my team get to that. The Olympics are a great thing, and I’m not saying I don’t want to get to them, but right now I’m more focused on team. When that’s done, I will look to the Olympics and train for the trials in 2012.”
If it sounds like Jaques is getting ahead of herself, she’s really not.
Olympic aspirations are deserved after some of the high-profile times she’s posted, e.g. breaking Olympian Janet Evans’ high school record of 1 minute, 59.90 seconds in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 1:57.91.
And considering California holds its high school swimming season in the spring, it won’t be too long before Jaques is in the pool at Texas as one of the country’s top incoming freshmen.
Before all that, though, is Saturday’s swan song for Jaques. She’s an overwhelming favorite to defend her titles in the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke. Doing so will cap off a career that easily makes her not only the best female swimmer in Glendora’s storied history, but the Valley as well.
Putting the finishing touches on such a dynamic prep career is something Jaques will be trying to do not only for herself, but for the crowd that knows exactly who she is and what’s possible each time she glides through the water.
“I definitely feel the pressure,” Jaques said, “but I kind of feel like I funnel that pressure and get it to where it helps me. I take the pressure and all the nervous energy and leave it in the pool.
“The motivation this year is really just winning it for Glendora. Last year we had some bad luck, which cost us the team championship. All of us are motivated by that. That’s really what’s motivated me all season.”
Jaques’ success is a combination of natural talent and an extreme amount of hard work and careful scheduling. She’s doing weight workouts every morning while most people are asleep. She spends afternoon and evening hours swimming with her club team in Walnut. And somewhere in between all of that, she manages to sleep and do homework.
All of it has paid off handsomely so far, but the bigger challenges lie ahead. As Jaques closes out her prep career, presumably in style, the thought on many people’s minds in Long Beach on Saturday will be centered around the Olympics and the fact that they may have just had the pleasure of watching a future Olympic athlete in the twilight of what’s been an amazing prep career.
“It’s hard not to buy into it,” Jaques said of all the Olympics talk. “It is exciting. It is in the back of my mind during every practice. I will definitely work toward that during college. I know I really only have two chances to be on the Olympic team – 2012 and 2016. That is nerve-racking, and I have thought about it.”
And so have we.