Record Breaker: Rylee Jackson

Molly Bobik, Staff

Senior swimmer Rylee Jackson made quite a splash as she finished off her final year of high school swimming by crushing the 50 yard freestyle record.

Since the age of ten, Rylee has been a competitive swimmer. She started her career with the Greater Latrobe Aqua Club (GLAC) team where she learned the basics of competitive swimming. Rylee then began to fall in love with the sport as she blossomed into an exceptional swimmer and began taking part in more competitive events such as  Allegheny Mountain Swimming (AMS) meets.

Rylee joined the varsity team her freshman year of high school, where she continued to pick up speed. Not only did she individually makes WPIALs in the 50 and 100 yard freestyle, but she also qualified for states the same year- an extraordinary feat for a freshman.

The following year, Rylee once again made it to WPIALs, but just missed a spot at states. While not making it to states her sophomore year was a disappointment, Rylee did not let that keep her down. If anything it made her work even harder, which in the end payed off as she qualified for states her junior year and now for a third and final time as a senior placing third both years in the 50 yard freestyle.

While qualifying for WPIALs all four years and states three of those years is a huge accomplishment in itself. Rylee wasn’t satisfied with just this. For the last eight years, she had worked so hard to attain her goals and she wanted to cap off the success with one more great achievement. Rylee wanted to break the 23.63 second 50 yard freestyle record that Kayla Owens set back in 2014. “Once she set that goal,” said Beth Jackson, Rylee’s mom, “she was determined to achieve it.”

The road to record breaking was not easy for the swimmer though. Her entire senior year of varsity, Rylee threw her heart into every 50 yard freestyle event she swam. Unfortunately Rylee never quite made the cut with her time, being nearly 0.2 seconds off of Owen’s time during the regular season. Rylee kept a positive attitude throughout her endeavor. “I wasn’t frustrated,” said Rylee. “I was consistently dropping time in it, so I knew when WPIALs came around I would get it.”

Rylee’s struggle continued at WPIALs as she battled the clock in her individual 50 yard freestyle. As she touched the wall, Rylee looked up to read the timer on the wall and realized she was just .03 seconds away from Owen’s time. “It was definitely upsetting,” said Rylee, “but since I was so close I knew I could get it even lower.”

To Rylee’s good fortune, head coach Grey Arrigonie set her up with one final chance. Rylee would be the first swimmer of the 200 yard freestyle relay. Being the leader of the relay gave her the chance to record an official time for her individual 50 yards of the event. This time Rylee crushed the record with a lighting quick time of 23.4 seconds.

Reflecting on probably the most best moment of her swimming career, Rylee said, “I always kinda had a hope for it. I don’t know if I really believed I could have done it.”

Even though she may not have been able to believe that she broke the record, Rylee has one in the record books. Rylee did not do break it alone though. Rylee attributes her success to long time coach Grey Arrigonie. She  also extends a special hand to first year assistant coach Cody Bureau. Rylee said her biggest strides this year were from Bureau coaching her with sprinting sets during practice. Rylee said, “Grey has always done mid-distance and stroke with me.” Clearly, the change in training directly correlated to  Rylee’s time drop throughout the season.

With her senior year coming to an end, Rylee said, “I’m grateful that I did well considering that it’s an end to a chapter of my life.” Rylee is not the only one full of pride from her accomplishments. Rylee’s mom and lifelong cheerleader said, “Ry was goal driven, and her hardwork and determination greatly attributed to her achieving her goal.”

As Rylee moves on from high school, she plans to continue swimming, most likely at West Virginia Wesleyan College, a division II school. There she hopes to improve her swimming beyond what she has done in high school. “I think it’s exciting to see what I move onto,” said Rylee. While Rylee can never know for sure what will happen throughout the next few years of her life, she can most likely expect to continue reaching her big dreams as she has already done so multiple times in her whole eighteen years of life.