By the time February came to a close, Janet Hu had already accomplished a lot in 2012. Oaktonís star swimmer was fresh off outstanding performances at the Northern Region and Virginia Group AAA meets, where the Cougars captured their first-ever region and state swim titles. In addition to posting five automatic All-American swim times, she set new school records in the 100-yard freestyle, 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly. She was also part of the groups that set school records in the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay.
Yet that was only the beginning of a standout year that made Janet Hu a household name in local swimming circles.
The Oakton junior went on to qualify for the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., where she competed against the best swimmers in the country in eight events. She then returned home to swim in summer league for her local pool, Mosby Woods, adding to her laundry list of Northern Virginia Swim League feats with new league records in the 50-meter freestyle and 50-meter backstroke.
Hu capped her year in November with new National 15-16 Age Group records in the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly at Winter Nationals in Austin, Tex.
With her junior season at Oakton off to an undefeated start, Hu took a few moments to reflect back on a year she wonít soon forget.
Q: This year was filled with plenty of memories for you — going to Omaha to compete in the Olympic Trials, winning your school's first region and state titles, setting new records seemingly at every turn. Which memory was your favorite?
A: If I had to choose one it would have to be being a part of Oaktonís first state title in girls swimming. I feel like high school swimming is a lot more exciting because itís more team oriented. I remember the moment when they announced that Oakton had won and we all ran and jumped in the pool. It was definitely one of the most exciting moments of my year.
Q: Competing against so many talented swimmers under the bright lights in Omaha must have been eye-opening. Tell us about that experience.
A: It was very intimidating and a huge learning experience. I didnít do as well as I hoped but I still had a great time. The best part was watching Katie Ledecky make the Olympic Team.
Q: What was it like watching your Olympic Trials roommate and NCAP teammate, Katie Ledecky, win gold in London? How exciting was that for you?
A: It was incredible. Before she swam I thought sheís definitely going to medal, but seeing her win gold was just incredible. Right after watching her race I started texting all my friends. We were all just amazed.
Q: You went back and forth all year long between big national meets and more low-key local meets, but your effort never seemed to waver. Is it difficult to stay motivated going from an event like the Olympic Trials to a summer swim meet for your local pool?
A: After Trials I was actually really looking forward to going to a summer swim meet where it was more laid back. But I always try to have a goal going into a meet, whether itís to get a best time or to break a record.
Q: New records seem to come to you no matter what event you're swimming. Do you have a favorite stroke?
A: Either back or fly, it switches off. It usually depends on which feels better.
Q: What's the record you're most proud of setting this year?
A: At Winter Nationals this year, I set the National Age Group Record in the 50 Free for 15-16 year olds. I think Iím most proud of that one because I wasnít expecting it and it was really exciting to find out I broke it.
Q: In a way this question doesn't seem to even apply to you, but what improvements do you think you need to make going into next year?
A: I definitely need to work on my breaststroke if I want to improve in my IM.
Q: What's the difference between you as a swimmer today versus where you were a year ago?
A: After trials, I think I've become stronger mentally. I'm more prepared on what to expect going to bigger meets. We also started a new dry land training program this year, so I'm more physically prepared as well.
Q: Has the college search process swung into high gear for you yet? Which schools are you considering?
A: It has started a little bit, but it wonít swing into high gear until after July 1. Iíve just been emailing some schools and filling out questionnaires. I would like to go somewhere in California, but there are so many great schools outside of California, Iím not sure yet.