While Washington, D.C. sleeps, University of Maryland Olympic trial qualifiers have already dived into the pool at Eppley Recreation Center.
This year, 12 swimmers cumulatively from UMD’s men’s and women’s teams will be competing in one of the most prestigious national swimming competitions. Swimming a top time at trials could lead to international notoriety in securing a spot in the Olympics.
This year, Olympic trials for swimming will be held in Omaha, Neb. from June 25-July 2. Each morning, there are preliminary heats to separate the fastest swimmers from the rest of the pack. Winners from the morning move on to the semifinals and with even faster times, progress to the final rounds.
The top two swimmers in each event will be chosen to represent the U.S. Olympic swim team in London this July.
Sophomore criminology and criminal justice major Megan Lafferty will be swimming the 100 butterfly and 50 free. “For me it is important to go and have fun because it is already a huge accomplishment qualifying and getting to swim at a meet among future Olympians,” Lafferty said.
Olympic trials are unlike the typical National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) swim meet because postgraduate competitive swimmers who make high qualifying times can race alongside college athletes.
One of these competitors is Michael Phelps, known for his freestyle performance at past Olympic competitions. Despite this, John Hauser, sophomore economics major swimming the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle events, says he believes that this doesn’t necessarily add more pressure.
“It’s cool to be swimming against a multiple gold winning medalist but I’m more excited for the atmosphere of competing against so many other great swimmers,” Hauser said.
Swimmers can qualify for trials at any major swim meet nationally or internationally. UMD athletes qualified at places as diverse as Montreal, Canada to Palo Alto, Calif.
According to USAswimming.org, there are 26 events in Olympic trials that vary in distance, regarding the number of laps. They consist of four different types of strokes: freestyle, butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke as well as individual medley (IM), which is a combination of the four strokes.
The training schedule for UMD’s Olympic trial athletes consists of two-a-days (morning and afternoon practices), laps in the pool, weight lifting and “dry land,” which involve abdominal, core and cardiovascular workouts.
For UMD swimmers that devote 20 hours a week to practicing, free time is hard to come by. “We do not live the life of normal college students because we have nowhere near the same amount of free time and most of our free time I want to spend sleeping,” Lafferty said.
Being a student athlete means perfecting the art of time management through dedicating time towards academics as well as sports.
“The consistent practice schedule helps me develop a routine in time management so that I actually feel pressured to finish my assignments rather than just having too much free time and wasting it,” Anderson Sloan, sophomore finance major swimming the 100 breast at trials, said.
Aside from the strenuous physical activity that contributes to training, the mental preparation for June’s events is key. Pressure from trials comes mostly from the nature of time in a swimmer’s mentality. Swimming is a sport unlike others because athletes train months for a race that could be less than a minute, Lafferty said.
In comparison, Sloan feels that mentally preparing for this meet will be less taxing since his score will not be computed with his entire team of fellow Terps.
“In comparison to an ACC meet or a meet where you’re swimming with the college, this is a lower pressure situation because my performance doesn’t affect the overall team performance,” Sloan said. “I’m really honored to even go and have the opportunity to compete at the meet.”
Swimming in an unfamiliar atmosphere, such as with the Century Link Center in Omaha, also adds a different type of pressure to trials.
“You have to get used to the pool since every pool has a different type of feel to it,” Hauser said. “You have to make sure you’re comfortable with your flip turns.” A flip turns means pushing off from the wall to start a new lap of the race.
Lafferty, Hauser and Sloan will continue their vigorous training schedule until the conclusion of trials, potentially advancing to the Olympic swimming events in London from July 28-August 4.
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