Making a splash

Jenna Syverson rewrites Soldotna's record books

Posted: Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Oops, she did it again.

Broke another Soldotna record, that is.

Soldotna High School senior Jenna Syverson, who masqueraded as Britney Spears for last Thursday's festivities, added three more records to her swimming resume Saturday during the Region III Swimming and Diving Championships.

Heading into this season, Syverson already had her name in the school record books in the 50-yard freestyle and the 100 freestyle, as well as the 200 medley relay, 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay. She added the 200 freestyle earlier this year, breaking a mark set in 1991. Syverson also holds a pair of SoHi Pentathlon records in the 100 individual medley and the 50 freestyle, though she said she hopes junior teammate Abby Kiffmeyer will break the IM record next year.

In Saturday's competition, Syverson broke her own 100 freestyle record, winning the event in 53.70 seconds, nearly matched her school-record time of 24.50 in winning the 50 freestyle, and helped the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays to school- and region-record performances. Syverson clocked a 24.2 in one of her relay legs -- an exceptional time coach Sohail Marey thinks she can match this weekend at the Alaska School Activities Association championships in Anchorage.

All in a day's work.

Jenna Syverson

In Athletics

Holds school records in the 50-, 100- and 200-yard freestyles, 200 medley relay, 200 and 400 freestyle relays, and SoHi Pentathlon records in the 100 individual medley and 50 freestyle.

Member of Soldotna varsity basketball team.

In the Classroom

Carries a 3.8 grade point average.

Member of National Honor Society; also participates in Soldotnas swing choir.

"Basically, I'm just trying to give it my all in my last year," Syverson said. "My goal this year is to win state in both my races. Hopefully, our girls team can win state. I'm very confident we can do it."

Syverson's development into one of the top swimmers in the state hasn't been without its bumps in the road.

"Last year was pretty difficult," Syverson said. "I wasn't getting better times, and I didn't know why. My parents really supported me, and the girls that I swim with, I love them to death. I couldn't be the swimmer I am without them and Mr. Marey -- he's an awesome coach."

Marey said last year's struggles had more to do with Syverson's competitive personality being at odds with her physical maturation process.

"It happens to most high school kids. Their bodies change, and they need to adapt to that," Marey said.

"I think for Jenna, the main reason was being too competitive. She did not want to be patient in changing what she was supposed to be changing. She's very competitive. To her, it was frustrating. As a coach, I did not see it that way. She was improving, and eventually, it did pay off."

Syverson said her swimming career began in the Skyview High School pool with the South Central Sea Serpents age-group swimming club at age 7, when current Homer coach Bridget Kuhns told Syverson's mother Lana that Syverson should consider swimming.

"I had a lot of friends who were swimming, and I decided to get into it," Syverson said.

Syverson moved to the SoHi pool and the Soldotna Silver Salmon club in sixth grade, though at the time, her favorite event was the backstroke.

That changed when she began swimming the shorter freestyle events as an eighth-grader.

"I went to a swim camp in Arizona and worked on my freestyle technique," Syverson said. "After that, my freestyle just kept getting better and better."

That improvement has continued through four years of high school, with a break each winter for basketball season.

"I really enjoy playing basketball," Syverson said. "It gives me a break from swimming, and swimming is a break from basketball.

"A lot of swimmers don't do two sports. It's hard -- I could be going to all these big meets, but I chose basketball instead."

Syverson said her participation in athletics has enhanced her high school experience.

"Getting involved is the best way to get through high school," Syverson said. "I'm so happy I stayed with athletics. It gives me something to remember for the rest of my life."

Syverson, who began her hoop dreams in Boys and Girls Club basketball as a 5-year-old, broke in with Soldotna's varsity basketball team as a sophomore.

Syverson said she expects big things from this year's squad.

"A lot of us have been playing together since we were 5 years old -- it's fun to see the progression we've made," Syverson said.

Syverson said her academics also are progressing well. She carries a 3.8 grade point average with plenty of challenging classes on her schedule.

Syverson said she enjoys science and anatomy and is considering a major in physical therapy when she heads off to college next fall.

Incidentally, Marey thinks Syverson would make a great lawyer.

"She can argue," Marey said of the trait that has led him to dub Syverson the poolside lawyer. "She fights for everyone on the team, even with me. She's happy to be in here to argue for anybody."

Syverson said she won't be making any decisions on where she'll go to college until after the swimming season ends. She said she isn't sure whether try for a Division I program, or if a Division II or III school would be a better fit.

In the immediate future, Syverson has her sights fixed on this week's state championships. Syverson will be sure to have her game face on, and the Britney Spears outfit will be back in the closet.

"She has that kind of personality you have to be careful how you handle," Marey said. "Luckily, her teammates know how she operates. If you don't know her, you might think she's a little rude and aggressive on meet day. Her teammates end up benefiting because they see what it takes to be a competitor at that level."

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