Kealy ends Wahoo career in epic fashion at Y nationals

The next chapter of Jake Kealy’s swimming career — as a member of the College of William & Mary men’s swim team — will begin in a few weeks.

But this summer he still had one last meet as a member of the Wilton Y Wahoos swim team, and he ended his Wahoo career on a high note at the YMCA Long Course National Championships, held earlier this month in Greensboro, N.C.

In addition to winning the national title in the 200-meter backstroke for the second year in a row, Kealy set a Wahoo milestone by qualifying for A Finals in five individual events, setting personal-best times in all five swims.

“It was my last meet as a Wilton Wahoo so I wanted to end things on a high and swim my best, and accomplish my goal of swimming fast,” said Kealy. “I didn’t have expectations to win because the competition changes each year, but I knew I had worked hard all season.”

Kealy was the biggest point winner for the Wahoos, having part in 151 of the men’s team’s 286.5 points, including 75 individual points.

He was also a member of four relay teams that totaled another 76 points.

Kealy’s time in the 200 backstroke of 2:03.53 set a new team record, breaking the time of 2:03.66 set by Ian Rainey in 2014. He beat his personal best, set at last year’s long course nationals, by more than a second.

He also was tied for second in the 100 backstroke in 57.84, a personal best by .38 of a second.

He was fifth in the 200 IM (2:10.24) and seventh in both the 400 IM (4:40.04) and 50 backstroke (27.58).

Swimmers at this year’s Y nationals were allowed for the first time to swim five individual events, instead of four, which allowed Kealy the chance to swim events he usually doesn’t swim.

The 400 IM, which was swum on the third day of competition, was such an event. Kealy had been seeded 17th but finished seventh. He recorded a personal-best time of 4:38.89 in preliminaries, dropping his previous best time by nearly 10 seconds.

“It was great to finish and see how much time I dropped. It put me in a great mood for the rest of the meet. It motivated me,” he said.

In addition to winning the 200 backstroke, Kealy came close to another win in the 800-meter freestyle relay, as Wilton’s team of Kealy, Tim Joyce, Will Suchy and Ethan Murray were just touched out.

Kealy’s performance capped off what has been a big jump in his results over the last three years. In the 200 backstroke, he has gone from sixth two years ago to two-time national champ; and in the 100 back has gone from 16th to third to second.

He was also fourth in the 200 IM last year, and 42nd in the 100 butterfly.

At short course nationals in April, Kealy set a Wahoo team record, and Connecticut resident record, in the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 1:45.39, placing third. The previous record of 1:46.60 had been set in 1998.

Kealy also swam the 100-yard backstroke, placing fourth; the 200-yard IM, finishing seventh, and the 100-yard butterfly, placing 46th.

Kealy, who graduated from Fairfield Prep in June, will head to William & Mary (Williamsburg, Va.) later this month. He will join his older brother Tommy, a 2014 Wilton High graduate, on the men’s swim team. Tommy, a rising senior, was a two-time state champ for Wilton in two events.

Kealy at first didn’t plan on attending William & Mary, but after visiting the campus, and meeting the team, had a change of heart.

“I ended up loving it. I loved the team and I loved the coaches. They win their conference every year,” he said. “I’m excited to be part of the team.”

William & Mary, which competes on the Division I level, has won the Colonial Athletic Association championship three years in a row.

Kealy’s focus beyond college swimming is the 2020 Olympics Trials. His time in the 200-meter backstroke at this year’s long course nationals beat the 2016 Olympics Trials cut of 2:04.19 — giving him confidence that he can achieve his goal in three years.

“That’s my biggest goal,” he said.