AUBURN, Ala. — It’s no secret that the 2012 London Olympics are approaching and that U.S. national team trials are three months away.
And even though the NCAA Championships are under way, in the back of many of the swimmers’ and divers’ minds, a vision of competing against the world’s best on the sports’ biggest stage remains present.
Records have been breaking left and right this week. And unless there is something in the water at Auburn’s Martin Aquatics Center, it appears that vision has pushed these student-athletes to get better.
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“This being an Olympic year, people are stepping it up,” said California’s Caitlin Leverenz, who won the 200 individual medley on Thursday and was part of Friday’s record-setting 200 medley relay team. “Everyone gets hyped up for it and ready to go.”
Leverenz’ teammate Cindy Tran said this is one of the fastest NCAAs in history.
“I think we are just so motivated and put so much heart into it,” said Tran who, with Leverenz, will tryout for the U.S. national team.
The swimmers admit the 2011-12 NCAA season has been a little different.
“There is so much pressure trying to do things right and to make sure you are doing everything that will help you at the end of the year,” said Florida’s Elizabeth Beisel, who competed in the 2008 Beijing Games. “It’s been a little harder to enjoy, knowing that there is so much on the line.”
Georgia’s Allison Schmitt knew how much was on the line and decided she didn’t want to have to worry about the NCAA season and chose to redshirt to focus solely on Olympic training.
Schmitt, who won a bronze medal at the 2008 Games, has been training under renowned coach Bob Bowman and alongside Olympic legend Michael Phelps.
Schmitt has missed being at the NCAAs this year and has been following along on her computer. But she does not regret her decision.
“My decision came down to that I can go back to Georgia [for my senior year] and this is the year that I can go down to the Olympics and do well there,” said Schmitt, who was in Baltimore this weekend.
Redshirting has allowed Schmitt, who won eight individual national championships in three years at Georgia, to get a lot more individual attention and be able to participate in more competitions.
Other swimmers, including Schmitt’s Georgia teammate Wendy Trott and national teammate Beisel, considered to redshirt as well, but chose to compete in the NCAA season.
“It just wasn’t the right kind of fit for me,” said Trott, who competes internationally for South Africa. “I wanted to spend the year [at Georgia].”
At California, redshirting was never considered.
“Every team is different,” Tran said. “[At Cal] people want to be with the class they come in with. I could never do that for the Olympics.”
Even without Schmitt, the NCAAs has been an indicator that this year’s Olympic trials will be one of the fastest yet, with seven NCAA and American short-course records being broken.
“It’s cool because a ton of these girls are going to be the same people going into trials, so it will be some good races this year [at trials],” Leverenz said.