June 27, 2008
OMAHA, Neb. - Throughout the 2008 United States Olympic Team Trials, members of the Univeristy of Notre Dame swimming team will share their experiences with Irish fans each day with individual blog entries.
Day 1 - Friday, June 27
Wow, we're finally here in Omaha after some near disasters and plenty of dilemmas that could last us for a while. Well, most of us started our days off pretty early, getting up for morning practice. Some of us had final exams and classes while others finished up last minute packing. We got all of our Trials gear today, including tons of shirts, a new warm-up, and sweet USA bags. We had a farewell lunch at the dining hall right before we left, with a little gift exchange for some extra luck. Our resident assistant and our teammates made us amazing good luck signs posted in our hall and in the locker room. They're the best! As we bring all of our stuff, one by one, down from McGlinn Hall, we soon realized that nine girls, three coaches, a massage therapist, and nearly two bags apiece had to fit in three small cars. To say the least, it was very interesting seeing (coach) Carrie Nixon smashing our bags into the trunks.
We arrive at the airport, with just enough time to check our bags. But when I arrive at the counter with my "Big Beluga" suitcase, I find that it weighs an enormous 75 lbs. Okay, well I guess that's $50 extra to pay. However, I could knock that down the $25 with 70 lbs., so I stuffed t-shirts into my pillow, which then quickly became 5 lbs. heavier. Oh well.
We don't have to wait in the airport very long until we board the plane, which is always super nice. As we were in the air, the pilot came over the speaker and informed us that we wouldn't be able to land in Omaha because there was a horrible storm, including tornadoes, so we had to land in Kansas City until it all passed. But no big deal, we were only on the ground for about twenty minutes before we got back in route to Omaha. So we finally arrive at the Omaha airport to find out that the pool has been damaged by one of the seven tornadoes. AHHHH!!!
Well you know, of course we thought it was no big deal. But NO, this is a big deal. Part of the side of the Quest Center is completely torn off, lying on the ground in front of the building. Not only that, but the roof is now leaking water into the pool. So hopefully they will get people out there to fix it, but if not, the meet might be delayed, unfortunately.
Anyways, so we haven't been to the pool yet, so I don't have much to update you on that, but we will definitely be back tomorrow with pictures of it (if we are even let inside, ahhh). And that's our shamblific day for you all. But we made it out alive and ready to dominate Trials.
Day 2 - Saturday, June 28
After all of the weather and traveling troubles yesterday, we all needed a day's rest! We started our day off by being able to sleep in until 9 a.m., which hasn't happened for most of us in weeks. After a team breakfast at the hotel we went to the pool for a morning swim. Everyone had to register and get their picture credentials for the meet. We have to carry out credentials with us everywhere we go. We can't even go to the bathroom without it! The whole venue is under high security so it is crucial that we have them with us at all times. (Coach) Carrie Nixon told us that if we don't have it before our event, the officials wouldn't even let us swim our race. I will make sure that thing is attached to me at all times! In regards to the pool, it is absolutely amazing. I have never to be a pool quite like this in my life. I can't wait to see what the venue will look like once the stands are packed with spectators. After taking in the wonderful scene, we all did a nice long warm-up to loosen up from the previous day of traveling. Carrie wanted us to make sure we get use to the new pool by doing a few starts and making sure our turns are on point.
While we were waiting for everyone to finish swimming we checked out the rest of the Quest Center. One part of the venue has an athlete lounge that has food, computers, couches and sofa beds for the athletes to use during the meet. The lounge also has two huge flat screen TVs, one to play XBox on and the other to play Rock Band. Maggie (Behrens), Christa (Riggins) and I rocked out to a few songs on Rock Band, which is now my new favorite game!
After we left the pool, we grabbed some lunch in Old Market, which is directly across from our hotel. The Market has lots of cute stores and filled with great places to eat. We then had some time to do whatever we wanted to relax before heading back to the pool for a night splash. Since my back was bothering me from traveling, I had Natalie, our masseuse, massage my back to get all of the knots and kinks out. It is so nice having her here with us; she does such a great job and is very helpful for our swimming.
Since I still had a few hours to relax I went and got a pedicure at a nearby salon. I love getting my nails and it really helps me relax, especially before meets. Some of the other girls took naps, watched movies and got massages from Natalie. Some girls went to the grocery store to get some food for the room. It is very crucial that we make sure we eat enough at big meets to keep our metabolism going and to energize our bodies.
Around 5 p.m. we headed back to the pool for just a short swim. Most of us only did 1,500m. We tried on our new suits to get use to them and make sure we liked them. I love the suits we are wearing; they make you feel so buoyant in the water. We are very lucky to be able to wear such nice and expensive suits. There was even an article in the USA Today about the new suits made by Speedo and TYR. It's pretty neat knowing that some people are so intrigued and interested in the type of suits we are wearing for Trials.
After our short swim we came back to the hotel before heading to dinner. Most of the girls went out with the team but some of us had dinner with our parents. I went to dinner with my dad and his friends. Since my dad is leaving on Tuesday, I probably won't get to spend much time with him because of my swimming. Once tomorrow starts, I really need to focus on my swimming and get ready for my race on Monday. It's pretty crazy that my race is only two days away. I have been waiting since February (when I achieved my Olympic Trial cut) for this one race. I know all of the hard work and dedication will truly pay off. I feel that it has already been justified by being apart of this meet! I can't wait to watch everyone swim and hopefully see some world records be broken!
Day 3 - Sunday, June 29
What an incredible start to the 2008 Olympic Trials! This evening's finals session was nothing short of breath taking. With two World Records broken and a new American Record set as well, the energy in the Quest Center was remarkable! There were over 13,000 fans in attendance tonight including athletes, coaches, family, friends, avid swim fans and even some who were watching the sport for the first time!
We, the Irish, got off to a great start this morning with two swims, one from Kellyn Kuhlke in the women's 100m butterfly and the second from Ashlee Edgell in the women's 400m individual medley. Kuhlke had a great swim for herself coming back from having shoulder surgery just shy of seven months ago. Her front-end speed and turnover during the race shows signs of great things to come from her in the future. Edgell also had a solid swim in this morning's preliminaries in the 400m IM. The speed Edgell exhibited early on in the race bodes well for her next race, the 200m IM, which will be contested on Tuesday.
After a long preliminary session this afternoon, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at Subway and returned to the pool at 6 p.m. this evening to grab some seats for the highly anticipated finals session. Sitting in the "athlete section" in the Quest Center, we had prime seats for taking in all of the action! Let the swimming begin...
The night started off with a World Record performance by Michael Phelps in the 400m IM! Uncharacteristically, Phelps did not have his usual body length lead over the field and was closely followed throughout the entire race by Ryan Lochte. Lochte, who was the top qualifier in the event after this morning's preliminaries, kept the race interesting for us fans finishing just eighty-three one hundredths of a second behind Phelps.
Next up was the semi-finals of the women's 100m butterfly followed by the finals of the men's 400m freestyle and women's 400m IM. Larsen Jensen set an American Record in the 400m freestyle in a time of 3:43.53 and was closely followed by Peter Vanderkaay, who took second, finishing just two tenths of a second behind. In the women's 400m IM, the favorite, Katie Hoff, set a World Record in the event with a time of 4:31.12 and finished just ahead of 15 year-old Elizabeth Beisel.
The night concluded with the semi-finals of the men's 100m breaststroke. Brendan Hansen won the event in a time of 59.24 narrowly missing his own world record of 59.13. With a race like that in semi-finals, who knows how fast he will swim in finals.
After a long day of swimming, we were all tired and hungry. We raced upstairs after finals to the athlete dining facility where we were greeted by tables of hard-carved meats, pastas, bread, salad, soup and plenty of fresh fruit and desserts! The flank steak was better than that which is served at (Notre Dame's) South Dining Hall, which is seriously something to rave about!
Day 4 - Monday, June 30
Today, the second day of Trials, was one of the most exciting days of swimming I have ever seen. My teammates Maggie Behrens and Caroline Johnson started the day off with great swims in the 100m back. A couple heats later, Haley MacGregory of Longhorn Aquatics broke the world record. In the very next heat, Natalie Coughlin regained her title as world record holder. Two world records back-to-back, especially in prelims, is unheard of and one of the coolest races to watch! My teammates Christa Riggins and Casey Wagner also swam the 400m free this morning.
At finals, the excitement continued. In the final of the 100m butterfly, underdog Christine Magnuson from Tennessee came from behind to win the event and earned her spot on the Olympic team. In the final race of the night, the women's 400m free, Katie Hoff came from behind to earn her second victory of the meet. However, this victory was hard earned, as she out-touched three other competitors.
Swimming in and being part of Olympic Trials has been such a great experience. It is truly amazing how well they treat all of the athletes. The Qwest Center is by far the best facility I have ever swam in. Not only is the pool very fast, they have everything the athletes could ever need or want. I am so glad I have gotten to experience all of this with eight of my best friends. I can't wait to see how the rest of the meet plays out!
Day 5 - Tuesday, July 1
Day three of Olympic Trials went along with the theme of being quite possibly the fastest meet ever. In the morning preliminaries the women's 200m freestyle, men's 200m butterfly, and women's 200m individual medley were contested. Our teammate, Christa Riggins, completed her second swim of the week in the 200 freestyle, while Ashlee Edgell and Megan Farrell competed in the 200 I.M. Each of the girls put in a good swim to their last events of the meet.
The field in the 200m free proved to be the most competitive, with all 16 girls qualifying for semi-finals breaking the 2:00 barrier. Our own Katie Carroll was one of them, finishing 15th in the morning. In the 2004 Olympic Trials only five women broke the 2:00 barrier, so it is obvious how far USA swimming has come in the last four years.
This night's finals were the host of seven events, four of them determining the newest members of the Olympic Team. In the semi-final of the 200m free, Katie Hoff proved her versatility, being the top qualifier going into tomorrow evenings finals. The men's 200m free finals were lead by teammates Michael Phelps and Peter Vanderkaay, while Ricky Berens and Klete Keller qualified for the 4x200m free relay, finishing third and fourth.
The finals for the women's 100m backstroke was held, the event I competed in yesterday, and was nothing but an amazing show of the three fastest ladies in the history of the race. Natalie Coughlin touched first, breaking her own world record, which she set yesterday, with a time of 58.97 (the first woman under 59 seconds). Margaret Hoelzer was second, tying Coughlin's previous world record time. Haley McGregory finished third, despite her temporary record performance the previous morning.
The men's 100m backstroke was next and matched the aura of the evening. Aaron Piersol broke his own world record, touching in 52.89, continuing to be the only man under the 53 second-barrier. Matt Grevers added onto his amazing year by finishing second, stamping his ticket to Beijing.
The women's 100m breast proved to be the hardest to call, with three Olympians in the field as well as a former world record holder. Jessica Hardy showed she was still the best, touching the wall first but still shy of her American record. Megan Jendrick (formerly Quann), the 2000 Olympic gold medalist in the 100 breast, touched second, .01 ahead of Tara Kirk, who beat out Jendrick in 2004 to make the Olympic team. Rebecca Soni, the top qualifier from semi-finals, finished fourth, but don't count her out yet for the 200m is her better event.
The 200m butterfly semi-finals was not short of exciting. Michael Phelps swam his second event for the night and is the top seed for tomorrow's finals. His teammate, Davis Tarwater is second, not far behind. The women's 200 IM semi-finals was full of veterans as well, with the top two seeds swimming in their second events of the night. Katie Hoff was the top finisher, breaking the 2:10 barrier for the first time, while Coughlin was second. Whitney Myers and Cailtin Leverenz were stroke-for-stroke with Coughlin the final 50, so watch out for them in the final tomorrow.
Tomorrow our team will cheer on Katie Casey as she competes in the 200m butterfly. The Qwest Center here in Omaha has provided the best atmosphere any athlete could ask for, no wonder there are so many records being broken!
Day 6 - Wednesday, July 2
My week here at Olympic Trials has so far been very exciting. When I arrived in Omaha on Friday I got a phone call that my younger brother, Kevin, got his Olympic Trials cut in the 100m butterfly. I was so excited to find out that someone else in my family would be here competing with me. I've always been Kevin's biggest fan and I was so happy for him. It's a huge accomplishment for anyone, especially a 15-year old. Now my parents are staying until Friday, which made me happy that I could spend more time with them.
After three days of watching world-class competition I can honestly say that the Olympic Trials has been the most amazing swimming experience I've had so far. I never thought in my life that I would swim at a meet with over 12,000 people in the audience.
My favorite moment so far has been watching both the men's and women's finals of the 100m backstroke. It's my favorite event and seeing two world records by Nataile Coughlin and Aaron Piersol was so exciting.
As far as my swimming goes, I was WAY more nervous than I thought I would be. Initially, I was just excited to be in the meet. However, after watching a few sessions you start to realize just how big of a deal this is. By the time I was standing behind the blocks I was very, very nervous. Afterwards it was kind of a strange feeling. There was so much build up and so much preparation and then it was all over in just over a minute. I thought it would be a bigger relief when it was over, but watching fast swimming makes you wants to get in the pool and swim fast, too.
Since my swim has been over I've been able to just enjoy the experience, take a lot of pictures, and do some shopping in Omaha. Casey Wagner, Christa Riggins, my brother and myself have also been able to fine a little time to play some Rock Band in the athlete lounge.
The Trials has made me so excited for the upcoming college season. I can't wait for my teammates to arrive in the fall; I miss them all so much. I know that next year will be our best year yet.
Day 7 - Thursday, July 3
Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.
Today was my first day at the pool. I flew in late last night after finishing up some exams at school. Now that they're done it will be much easier to just simply focus on trials and having fun. The best part of getting here was seeing the rest of the team Wednesday night. Even though they had all only been gone from campus for a few days I missed them so much.
This morning I woke up, grabbed breakfast in our hotel and headed off to the pool. After a tour of the Quest Center, I felt sufficiently confused. The facility is enormous and soon I had to get my credentials so I could legally walk through the building. After that I did a little warm up in the competition pool and soon headed over to swim in the short course pool. I love short course and it is definitely where I will be warming up the rest of the meet.
Once I was done with my warm up I ran into some old friends and some of our other Irish S'Women who have been training at home for the summer. Seeing people I hadn't seen in a while was a huge highlight of the day for me. We watched some prelims in which Sam Maxwell and incoming freshman Gwen Blythe competed in the 200m breaststroke. Both posted solid times.
Back at the hotel I got a massage from Natalie to work out the kinks of a long afternoon of traveling yesterday. I couldn't be more thankful to have her here with us! After a big lunch I lounged around the room. My friend, Kaitlin, stopped by for a bit and we had some good laughs. Eventually it was time for a nap. Having not set an alarm, I was awakened at 6:13 p.m. for our 6:15 departure to the pool...oops.
I was amazed at the atmosphere of finals tonight. After watching the meet online and on television for the past few days I learned that it is so much more than what it appears to be. Being able to be in the stands and compete here is truly an honor. I finally knew what Kellyn (Kuhlke) was talking about when she told me that it was one of the coolest experiences she had ever had for swimming. The spectacle of it all was great.
The men's 200m breast final kicked off the night with the women's 100m free semifinal shortly after. I loved watching both but was super excited to see Dara Torres and Natalie Caughlin go head to head in the second heat of the 100m free. The men's 200m back was no surprise as Peirsol and Lochte advanced themselves to the final tomorrow night.
The Irish took a special interest in the women's 200m fly final as graduate Katie Carroll finished sixth at 2:10.33. Next was the men's 100m free final for which the entire crowd seemed to be on their feel before it even started. Garrett Webber-Gale finished first with Jason Lezak and Cullen Jones right behind him. The women's 200m breast semifinal and men's 200m IM semifinal finished out the night.
Finally I got to experience dinner at the Quest Center that Megan raved about in her blog entry. It was amazing to have such great food for so many athletes. After eating our fill we returned to the hotel. I can't wait to wake up tomorrow because my parents will be here! I will also get to race in a time trial before my 50m free on Saturday.
Day 8 - Friday, July 4
Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Today was an exciting 4th of July here in Omaha. Cullen Jones started off the meet right setting an American record in the 50m free in prelims. It was an amazing swim to watch. At night he finished first again, making him the number one seed going into the finals tomorrow. Amywren Miller had her first race in a time trial in the 50m free to help her prepare for her big race tomorrow. She was two tenths off her best time, and she is hoping to perform even better tomorrow.
The finals session was the most exciting so far. When we walked into the Quest Center there were colored shirts on every seat. The shirts alternated red, white and blue by section to turn the stadium into the most patriotic place I have ever seen. There was a live shot of the entire audience doing the wave and waving our American flags to the camera. It looked like a giant American Flag waving. We saw a different form of fireworks when Aaron Peirsol tied the world record in the 200m backstroke. Peirsol now shares the world record with Ryan Lochte, whom he out-touched by .02 in tonight's finals. There were more fireworks when Michael Phelps got the world record in the 200m individual medley. After tonight's fireworks and world records inside the Quest Center, we are going to enjoy the patriotic display of fireworks outside.
Day 9 - Saturday, July 5
The Olympic Trial time standard is a cut chased by the most dedicated and driven Swimmers. I know the ten of us Notre Dame girls will remember that "magical" swim - looking up at the scoreboard and seeing a time that qualifies us for the 2008 Olympic Trials. From that point, the Olympic Trails became our main focus. It has been used as a source of motivation during hard practices and has pushed us to be the best athletes and best team we can be. As we have discovered this week, the Olympic Trials would be an experience we will never forget.
This morning we watched Amywren Miller swim the 50m free in a personal best of 26.31. It is said that only 15% of athletes at this meet will swim a best time. So the team was very excited to see Amywren have such a good race. Also, in the morning session, we saw the American record broken in the women's 50m free by Lara Jackson who swims for the University of Arizona. Although an exciting swim to watch, I am an admirer of the previous American record holder, Dara Torres. Fortunately, Dara reclaimed her title in the evening session of the meet.
Truly an unbelievable swimmer, Dara Torres, at the age of 41, and the mother of a little girl has still continued to compete at the most elite level of swimming. I have really enjoyed watching her perform well throughout this meet and look forward to watching her improve her times in Beijing.
In other events we saw a new world record in the women's 200m backstroke by Mary Hoelzer and an American record in the men's 50m free by Weber-Gale.
We head back to South Bend tomorrow morning and our training will resume as normal as we set new goals for the coming year.