Kalaheo’s Jacob Urbano Dives Into Competition

When Jacob Urbano set a new Oahu Interscholastic Association record in the 200 IM recently, he quickly set his sights on setting yet another record as he prepared for the OC16 Swimming and Diving Championships.

If anything, one of Urbano’s biggest challenges this winter was choosing which events to pursue.

“Many student-athletes are gifted in one or two strokes, but Jacob is good at them all distance, sprinting he’s a gifted athlete,” Kalaheo head swim coach Paula Scott said.

Over the weekend Urbano hoped to eclipse the state mark in the 200 freestyle at the state swimming and diving championships. The record of 1:39.28 belongs to Mark Eckert of Iolani, who set the mark in 2002. Urbano was clocked at 1:39.72 back in December when he set the 15-16 age group record in a meet while competing for Kamehameha Swim Club, giving him high hopes for the state. He was seeded third in the 200 free in the state meet (and second in the 100 backstroke, the other event he was to compete in at the state meet).

“I’m feeling real good in the water right now,” he said late last week. “I’m feeling strong, and I’ll be rested.”

Urbano set the OIA mark (of 1:55.35) in the 200 IM championships Jan. 28, but had already broken the league’s 25year-old record (set by Ross Takai of Pearl City in 1986) in the OIA preliminaries. Only a junior, any unfinished business Urbano leaves behind this year he may be able to take care of as a senior. Although he competes for Kalaheo during the prep season, Urbano’s schooldays are spent at home and at Hawaii Technological Academy in Waipahu.

“It’s hard,” said Urbano, an A student. “You have to stay disciplined and work on school during the day. I only go to classes (in Waipahu) a couple days a week, so there is a lot of independent work.”

Said Kalaheo Coach Paula Scott: “He’s obviously extremely gifted as a swimmer, but what stands out about Jacob is his phenomenal character. You would never know he broke the (OIA) record. He’s very humble and very kind. I can’t say enough good things about him.”

For his part, Urbano always has an eye on the competition.

“I love to race,” he said.”I’m a big competitor. Also, as I look around (on a national level) and I see people faster than me, it motivates me to go faster, too.”

Kalaheo senior Maria Zarka also was to compete in the state meet over the weekend. She took second in the OIA finals with a score of 319.10 recently to Nikki Imanaka (381.90) of neighboring Castle, and is coached by her father, longtime Windward area/Mainland coach Christopher Zarka.

“Maria has a real talent for what she does it’s her passion,” Scott said. “She’s really a hard worker.”

Added Kalaheo athletic director Mark Brilhante: “They are both unbelievable kids and students.”