Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Halfway through his prep career Izaak Hajek had followed a somewhat typical progression for a high school swimmer.
Hajek spent his freshman season adjusting to the high school sport and took a step forward once he became more comfortable last season as a sophomore.
“He learned what high school is about as a freshman and last year he became a very consistent worker,” West High coach Byron Butler said of Hajek.
After two seasons of steady progression Hajek hoped to continue on that ascent this season.
Instead the junior has rocketed into the conversation as one of the state’s most dynamic swimmers.
In his last two meets Hajek has earned Mississippi Valley Conference and district athlete the of the year honors and enters the State Swimming Championships on Saturday with top-three times in a pair of individual events.
“I set goal for this year it was big to set a goal and see it come through and achieve it,” Hajek said. “A goal for me this season was not to get district athlete of the year or conference athlete of the year that wasn’t even on my mind. But getting the times at those meets that I wanted and then seeing the outcome it just made everything pay off.”
What has paid off for Hajek this season is a year filled with hard work in and out of the pool.
A four-event state qualifier each of the past two seasons Hajek has been a talented swimmer since he joined the West High program as a freshman.
What has helped Hajek go from solid to elite is a more consistent approach to his daily training.
“I think this year he has done a better job of recovering between practices and maintaining consistency at practice,” Butler said. “His consistency has really improved and I think that’s been a big reason for his success.
In eight state meet events as a freshman and sophomore Hajek posted a pair of top-10 finishes highlighted by a fourth-place showing in the 100 butterfly last season.
Thanks in part to his improved consistency in training Hajek is poised to improve on those previous state finishes on Saturday.
“Swimming is a sport where you have to be consistent,” Hajek said. “You can’t just show up at practice you have to be at every practice ready to train your butt off.”
Hajek has the top time in the state this season in the 100 butterfly at 50.57 and brings the third best time in the 200 IM into the state meet.
He won both events at the MVC Super Meet and district meet and helped the West High 200 medley relay team to wins in both meets.
Hajek set the MVC record in the 100 fly and his time of 50.57 is more than half a second faster than the next best time this season posted by Davenport Central freshman Kyle Hopewell.
“His fly he is stuck above that barrier of 50.0 but I am really hopefully he is going to surge through that this weekend,” Butler said. “That has been the goal since day one of this season.”
Hajek hopes the familiarity that comes with a third consecutive trip to the state meet helps him cap his breakthrough season with a strong state showing.
“Going through it all before helps,” Hajek said. “I know what to expect, I know when to be here and what I have to do.”
Hajek and his West High teammates also have the advantage that comes with competing close to home.
The state meet returns to Iowa City and the University of Iowa Campus Recreation and Wellness Center Pool for the second consecutive season.
“Most of our team practices or swims half their club meets at that pool so it is like a home pool,” Hajek said. “Just knowing how fast that pool is it is really exciting for us.”
Hajek, who attends Liberty High school, says he has received great support from everyone at Liberty High and West High.
His final goal of the season is to help the Trojans return to the top five in the team standings at state.
“I’ve gotten a lot of compliments at school from kids and teachers and it really puts a smile on my face just to see that they know what I am doing,” Hajek said. “Hopefully we can have a strong showing this weekend I’m definitely hoping the team can place in the top four.”
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