Grand Rapids swimmer, Alyssa Jackson has only been swimming for three years, but she already has an impressive list of accomplishments.
This past season, on the Grand Rapids High School (GRHS) varsity swim team, as a seventh grader, she took fifth place in the 100 backstroke and third place in the 200 medley relay in the section 8A meet. Also, in the Minnesota YMCA State Championship meet, Jackson took third in the 100 butterfly, fourth in the 200 individual medley, first in the 100 backstroke with an Itasca Sea Turtles record time, and first in the 200 medley relay with a 13/14 under state record time. Through this meet, she qualified for the 2019 AAU Junior Olympic Games in five events: The 100 backstroke, 100 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 100 butterfly, and the 50 freestyle.
The Junior Olympic Games is an annual event held by the US Amateur Athletic Union that features 20 sports with around 16,000 athletes from the ages of 4 to 19. It is the pinnacle of youth sports and Jackson has earned her way there with a mere three years of swimming experience.
How did this all start?
Jackson said that she wanted to get into swimming partly because her older sister swam. Also, she remembers the swim test in school and compliments from others encouraged her to join.
Her father, Derek, recalls that she saw divers and became interested in diving, but he says “we told her to start with swimming with the Sea Turtles and then to switch over to diving later.”
Jackson had inspiration from multiple sources to give swimming a try, so she gave it a shot.
Grand Rapids swim coach Melissa Rauzi says she remembers Jackson’s first practice and that she noticed she had a pretty stroke, but lacked endurance. It didn’t take long for her to improve, though.
Rauzi said that Jackson advanced quickly due to her immense work ethic. Coaching at the YMCA, she saw Jackson develop her talent and become an impressive swimmer. Later on, Rauzi started coaching for Grand Rapids High School and knew Jackson would continue to do well and, of course, she was right. Jackson not only found herself on the varsity swim team in her first eligible year of high school athletics, but she also excelled in that tough position.
On how she thinks she has been able to come so far in such a short amount of time, Jackson said “I like to talk to the older kids [at practice] and see what they are doing.”
She also noted that “Melissa is a really good coach.” She said that Rauzi makes her better by being strict in a nice manner and by understanding her weaknesses in order to push her limits.
Finally, Jackson gives credit to her teammates because they always compete with her in practice.
The Grand Rapids High School swimming team has a bright future as both Rauzi and Derek mention that there is a great class of swimmers coming up. Jackson and her teammates are sure to continue their great success.
Next for Jackson will be attending a camp at the University of Minnesota Duluth to train and then onto Greensboro, N.C. for the 53rd annual Junior Olympics from July 23 to 27. She said that she is slightly nervous because she will not have any teammates there to talk with, but that it is also exciting.
There will be a fundraiser for Jackson on Thursday, June 27 at the Deer River Veterans Club from 5-7 p.m. to help cover the costs of the trip. At the fundraiser, there will be BBQ pork and turkey sandwiches, tacos, a 50/50 raffle and a silent auction.