Arnold Picks Up Her Third 500 Free Title
Posted: February 23, 2015
By JOHN GALLE
HARRISONBURG – A pair of surprisingly close freestyle races made Friday the toughest state tournament yet for Spotswood High School’s Jessie Arnold. But the senior capped her career like she started it – as a state champion.
Competing in a wire-to-wire race in the 500-yard freestyle for the first time, Arnold held off Lafayette’s Jenna Beattie in the adjacent lane by a tenth of a second to capture her third state title in the long-distance event at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center.
“It was probably one of the hardest races I’ve ever done just because the girl beside me was pushing me the whole way,” Arnold said.
Arnold’s winning time of 4 minutes, 57.38 seconds was about three seconds off of the state record set by Colonial Heights’ Abigail Richey last year. Richey placed fifth in the event this year.
“It felt really good being able to bring back the state title in the 500, because last year it was a really tough race and I got second,” Arnold said. “But this year, because it was my senior year, I really wanted to come out on top again.”
Arnold was just three-hundredths of a second shy of a second individual title in the 200 freestyle, which was her first event of the day.
Based on preliminary times, Arnold was initially focused on the swimmer next to her lane. However, late in the race, Arnold said she noticed a girl across the pool in an outside lane ahead of her.
“It was surprising because she didn’t go that fast in the morning,” Arnold said of New Kent’s Julianna Jones, who won in 1:52.46 after begin seeded sixth with a prelim time of 1:57.94.
Hoping to come away with two state titles, Arnold used the close runner-up finish as motivation for the 500.
“Her freshman and sophomore year, there was no question. She came in knowing she was the best by far,” SHS coach Jarad Buckmaster said. “Last year, she got beat and it was a struggle for her, but she was very determined to win it. She came in seeded fourth [this year]…so she really had to work for it.”
With the state title, Arnold secured a perfect stretch of sorts.
Arnold earned all-state (top eight) in the 200 and 500 freestyle in each of the past four years. On Friday, Arnold also anchored two all-state relay teams.
In November, Arnold signed a national letter of intent to swim for Virginia Tech. Last year, she competed in the World Junior Open Water Swimming Championships for the United States team in Hungary.