When Jessi Hildebrand was diagnosed with asthma in 2005, her doctor recommended two things — for her to swim and play an instrument.
She jumped right into band, eventually settling on the clarinet. Swimming was more of a recreational activity for her until three years later, when she decided to get serious about the sport and joined Chesapeake Swim Club.
This year, as a sophomore at Newcastle, Hildebrand won the Class 5A 500 Freestyle by more than 40 seconds and the 100 Butterfly by more than four seconds.
Hildebrand earned The Oklahoman's All-City Girls Swimmer of the Year honors.
“It's a big relief,” Hildebrand said of finishing off her season with a pair of titles. “It's nice knowing that the hard work pays off. Whenever it's over, though, you get kind of a melancholy feeling. Like, ‘It's already over.' The season goes by so fast.”
After a few weeks off, which included a family cruise, Hildebrand is back to training.
There was little doubt Hildebrand would be athletic in one form or another.
Her father, Devin, played college football. Her mother, Dawn, is a runner. Both of her parents have done marathons in recent years.
“We just didn't know she was going to take it to this level,” Devin said.
Many mornings, her parents drive her to practice at Oklahoma City Community College and then to school afterward. Then there are often afternoon practices as well.
And it's not just Jessi that needs shuttled around.
Her 12-year-old sister is also a swimmer and generally swims a later schedule than Jessi and also plays volleyball and basketball. Her 13-year-old brother plays soccer.
“It's a lot of work for her and a lot of driving for us,” Devin said. “But as long as she's happy doing it, that's all that matters.”
The sophomore appreciates her parents efforts that helped make her championships possible.
“My parents are my rock,” Jessi said. “They drive me around and support me and hold my hand when I'm crying because practice is so hard.
“They're just the most incredible parents ever.”
It's not just swimming that as stuck with Hildebrand.
Although she doesn't devote the time to band that she does swimming, it's still a significant part of her life.
“It's kind of hard to balance friends, school, band and swimming, but I do the best I can,” she said. “I just love my school friends, and they're all in band and I want to be with them as much as I can.”