With the end near, fighting for one last swim

Six swimmers from Terps teams likely last ones from university team to compete in Olympic trials

By Jenny Hottle
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Originally posted on diamondbackonline.com.

From the time she started swimming at 7 years old, Addison Koelle knew her ultimate goal was to make it to the Olympics. This week, she has her chance.

The senior government and politics major and five other current and former swimmers from this university are competing against the top swimmers in the country at the 2012 U.S. Olympic team trials in Omaha, Neb., which run from June 25 to July 2.

With the men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs on the chopping block — the team has raised only $184,716 of the $2.8 million needed to meet the team’s Saturday benchmark to continue on the university’s roster — team members said this is likely the last year a Terps swimmer will represent this university at trials.

However, Koelle is trying not to approach the meet as “the last time I’m ever going to jump in the pool or the last time I’m ever going to put a suit on,” she said.

Teammate Megan Lafferty, who is transferring to the University of Arizona for her senior year, has made the biggest splash for the Terps so far, just missing the semifinals after coming in 20th place in the 100-meter butterfly Monday.

Today, junior John Hauser — a two-time ACC Men’s Performer of the Week last season who is transferring to Penn State — will swim in the 100-meter freestyle, and Koelle looks to beat her personal record in the 200-meter fly, after swimming the 100-meter butterfly Tuesday. Recent graduate Alexa Hamilton will compete in the 200-meter breastroke tomorrow and recent graduate Ginny Glover swam in the 100-meter backstroke yesterday.

For Annie Fittin, a 2011 alumnus who swam in the 2008 trials and took this year to train in between student teaching, this year’s trials are “the final step in my swimming career.”

Like Koelle, Fittin began swimming at about 7 years old, practicing twice a week until she got acclimated to the sport.

“My parents made me try all different sports,” Fittin said. “But I wasn’t very good at anything else. I was clumsy and afraid of the ball. So I chose swimming.”

As she grew up and tried different sports, as well as theater, Fittin realized her passion was swimming, and she knew she wanted to be an Olympic swimmer.

Now, Fittin and her teammates’ practice schedule is much more intense, with two-a-day practices three times a week, in addition to lifting weights four times a week, dry land practices and a two- or three-hour practice on Saturdays, Fittin said.

“I’ve been training for as long as I can remember for Olympic trials, trying to accomplish that one goal I set when I was really little,” Fittin said.

More than 1,800 swimmers who met the qualifying times released by USA Swimming are vying to make their own Olympic goals come true this year. Up to 26 men and 26 women — the top two swimmers in each event, plus four more in the 100- and 400-meter events — will go to London.

It won’t be easy. American swimmers hold more than a quarter of all world records, according to USA Swimming, and the person in a nearby lane just might be Michael Phelps or Natalie Coughlin.

“It’s going to be pretty crazy, but it’s just another meet,” Koelle said before trials. “We’re all there to swim. You don’t want to get distracted by who’s in the lane next to you or it will really psych you out. But it’s a great honor to share the same pool with some of the fastest swimmers in the world.”

Instead of focusing on the swimmers in the pool, Koelle is challenging herself to stay out of her own way. It would be easy to overthink things, with Saturday’s athletics deadline looming.

“For me, this is going to be my last meet, and I could have had another year,” Koelle added. “So it’s kind of bittersweet, but it’s a great way to go out. We’re going to try to go out with a bang at trials.”


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