In each of her previous two trips to the state swim meet, Lindsay Looney entered trying to reach the top of the podium. Now the Denison junior’s goal hasn’t changed but there is no chasing for her this time. The rest of the field will be trying to knock her out first place.
As the defending champion in the Class 5A 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly, Looney is now out to not just win more hardware but make sure it stays gold at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center at The University of Texas on Friday and Saturday.
“I definitely want to go faster than I did last year,” she said. “I don’t feel any different. I get on the block and race my race. It’s the way I feel inside.”
Looney does not have the fastest qualifying time in the 200 IM and barely has the top qualifying effort in the 100 fly. Those are things an athlete at her level aren’t concerned about. She is in the race and she knows how fast she needs to go for a double repeat.
“I feel stronger and faster,” Looney said. “After regionals is when you get down and dirty with the training. You have the state mentality — just those two races left and do your very best.”
Her time of 56.13 seconds is a hair ahead of A&M Consolidated’s Jessica Peng at 56.15 seconds. They are the only two qualifiers under 57 seconds but 14 are under one minute.
For the 200 IM, Looney has the third-fastest time of 2:06.26, behind Emma Garfield of The Colony (2:03.62), whom she beat last year for the title, and Frisco Lone Star’s Joelle Reddin, who qualified as a freshman at 2:06.20. No one else qualified within two seconds of the trio.
“It’s not about seeding. As long as I have a lane I can race,” Looney said.
Last year Looney defended her title in the 200 IM and improved on a bronze finish as a freshman in the 100 fly with a record-setting classification time.
She won the 200 IM at 2:01.70 that was almost a second better than Garfield at 2:02.49. They were the only two swimmers under 2:03 — bronze medalist Rebecca Brandt of Dallas Hillcrest finished in 2:04.65.
Looney then took the top spot on the podium in the 100 fly with a time of 54.41 seconds to break the 5A mark of 54.70 seconds by Friendswood’s Caroline McElhany in 2009. Brandt finished as the runner-up in 55.49 seconds while Frisco’s Emily Lenihan, who had the top qualifying time, earned bronze in 55.92 seconds.
“I’m not sure I even knew what the record was. I know how fast I wanted to go,” Looney said. “I set a goal in my mind. I broke it but I didn’t go as fast as I wanted.”
She became the first Denison swimmer to win a state championship and is already the most decorated swimmer, regardless of gender, for the program in terms of total medals. She joins her brother, Davis, and Tori Fryar as the only Yellow Jacket swimmers to make it to state at least three times and both Looneys are the only ones to do it consecutively.
Looney repeated as the Region II champion two weeks ago with another strong effort. She won the 200 IM with a time of 2:06.26 and claimed the 100 butterfly with a time of 56.13 seconds. Looney won the 200 IM by seven and a half seconds over Lake Ridge’s Khadijah Brown and the 100 fly by two seconds over Braswell’s Alexa Barnes.
Before that Looney won district titles in both events for the third straight year, was part of the region qualifying 200 individual medley relay and was the District 5-5A Female Swimmer of the Meet.
As the end of her junior year approaches, Looney also finds herself in the middle of deciding which top college program she will compete for after graduation. While she didn’t name schools, she is fully involved in the process.
“We have a top 10, maybe a top 14. We’re in the thick of it. I’m narrowing things down,” Looney said. “I might want to go on some officials. I might wait until the fall to decide. It’s about the team togetherness and how you connect with the coach and academics and how well they improve over the years.”
In the high school off-season, Looney continued to compete on the national stage. She had three top 100 finishes at the USA Swimming National Championships last June — 47th in the 400 IM at 4:56.70; 55th in the 200 IM at 2:19.87 and 91st in the 100 fly at 1:04.39.
Then she was one of nine members of team USA at the FINA World Cup events in Tokyo and Singapore during a 10-day trip in November.
“I really, really liked it because all of us would come together as a team,” Looney said. “I trained through all of winter. I haven’t had that taper meet so I’m really excited for state.”