Jacobs co-op’s Jenny Tokarz qualified for the IHSA Girls Swimming and Diving State Meet in the 500-yard freestyle as a freshman in 2017 and went back to state in the 200 free as a sophomore in 2018.
A determined Tokarz worked hard to guarantee herself more swimming time this year.
The Golden Eagles junior accomplished her offseason goal and earned her third trip to state in three years, this time qualifying in both events, and placing 20th in the 500 free and 25th in the 200 free.
Tokarz earned Most Valuable Swimmer honors, along with Huntley’s Sydney McGuine and Ella Young, at the Fox Valley Conference Invitational, for the first time and captured individual titles in the 200 and 500 free. Tokarz, Kate Trembly, Olivia Johnson and Julia Koltuniuk also finished first in the 200 free relay.
For her accomplishments, Tokarz was chosen as the Northwest Herald Girls Swimmer of the Year by the sports staff. Tokarz becomes the first Jacobs swimmer to win the honor, which was first awarded in 1990.
Tokarz recently spoke with sports writer Alex Kantecki about getting her start in swimming, why the best music is the loudest music, snapping pictures, the best part of going to state and more.
How did you get into swimming?
Tokarz: When I was 5, my mom had already signed up my two older sisters for swim lessons because she didn’t want us to drown and die. I started lessons, and after I went through all of the levels, I went to the Dundee Dolphins [Swim Team]. It just came naturally to me. I fell in love with swimming and kept going after that.
What did you first like about swimming?
Tokarz: You’re kind of doing your own thing and in your own world. It relieves my stress in a sense. I grew up with a bunch of people at home, and I never got a lot of moments to myself.
Who’s your funniest teammate?
Tokarz: [Jacobs junior] Olivia Johnson. The things she says are so random, and they catch everybody off guard.
Which teammate inspires you?
Tokarz: My freshman year, Izzy Bavaro helped me out a lot. She always drove me to practice, drove me home from practice and kind of took care of me when my parents were working. She inspired me a lot, not just with swimming stuff.
Who is your favorite professional swimmer?
Tokarz: [American Olympic swimmer] Olivia Smoliga. I met her during one of the Illinois swim banquets. She was one of the guest speakers. She’s one of the best swimmers that everyone can relate to. She’s really down to earth.
Do you have any pre-swim rituals?
Tokarz: I like to listen to some kind of loud, obnoxious music. Everyone gets in their own head before they swim. To stop myself from doing that, I like to blast music to the point where I can’t hear anything.
What song(s) do you listen to?
Tokarz: “Feel Invincible,” by Skillet. They’re a heavy metal band. I play it on repeat because it does not go quiet once throughout the song.
What is your favorite kind of ice cream?
Tokarz: Oh, my gosh. Mint chocolate chip.
What’s your favorite part about going to state?
Tokarz: The car ride there and back. I’m able to bring along a certain amount of people with me to state. In the car, we have the most fun. It’s just the fact that they’re there for me, even though they could be starting their break early, hanging out at home or doing anything else, really.
If you were stuck on a deserted island, what three things would you bring with you?
Tokarz: A pan, some bandages in case I trip, fall and almost kill myself, and a fishing pole.
Which musical act would you most like to see in concert?
Tokarz: Panic! at the Disco.
Who is your biggest hero?
Tokarz: I would say my parents. They’ve always taught me to work hard for what you really want. Nothing is going to be handed to you. If you want to get things done, you have to put your all into it.
What’s your favorite subject in school?
Tokarz: History. When it comes to tests and remembering dates, that kind of comes naturally to me. ... It’s always interested me seeing how things have changed throughout the course of time.
What is your favorite race to swim?
Tokarz: The 200-yard freestyle. It’s not a distance event, but it’s also not a sprint. With the 200, you have to be more tactical with it.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Tokarz: People complaining when they don’t have a reason to complain.
We just had Thanksgiving. What’s your favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner?
Tokarz: It’s a tie between stuffing and ham. Turkey is nice, but it’s not my favorite.
What is something people wouldn’t know about you?
Tokarz: Most people don’t know that I have four other siblings, and I’m the middle kid.
Which professional sports team has the best uniform?
Tokarz: I like the Chicago Blackhawks’ uniform. I like watching hockey the most of all the sports. Half the time you can’t even see the puck, and all of a sudden someone scored.
Do you have any hobbies outside swimming?
Tokarz: Photography. Not taking pictures with my friends, dressing up or anything like that. I like taking pictures of sunsets, trees and just the scenery. Not one sunset is the same. It’s really cool to capture a moment.
What’s your dream car?
Tokarz: I’ve always wanted a Tesla.
What’s the coolest place you’ve ever visited?
Tokarz: Colorado. I went three summers ago with my family. We rented out a cabin. At night, it’s so pretty. I’ve never realized that I can’t really see the stars from my house. The whole entire sky was just filled with stars.
What’s your favorite movie?
Tokarz: “Frozen 2.” I watched it earlier this week, and it made me cry.
What will you remember most about your junior year?
Tokarz: All of the inside jokes we had and the overall closeness that grew throughout the year.