June 22, 2012
What was once a dream for many may soon become a reality for an entourage of Seminoles. Florida State will be sending 18 members of past, present, or future swimming teams to Omaha, Neb. for the US Olympic Trials, held June 25 - July 2 at the CentryLink Center. This number is up from the ten sent to the Olympic Trials four years ago with members competing for a spot in the 2008 Beijing games, but the competition is just as fierce. FSU will be represented in 19 different events during this year's trials.
Among those invited to this year's Olympic Trials include 2010 graduate CJ Hendry, who remarkably qualified for three events, all coming after her time in Tallahassee. "After my last conference meet I took some time off," said Hendry on her decision to continue swimming. "I said `do I want to keep swimming or am I through with it?' All the advice I got said `no you gotta go for it. You made it.' So I decided to keep training in August  and sure enough I ended up getting two more trial cuts so that was just fuel to the fire."
The Evans, Ga. Native qualified for the 50 meter freestyle during the November 2011 Missouri Grand Prix, posting a time of 26.11. She would then earn a second spot in trials in December at the National Championships after touching the wall in the 100 meter butterfly with a time of 1:00.76. Hendry finished off her run by making the trial cut for the 100 meter freestyle in March after posting a time of 56.82. Still, she knows the trials are in a class of their own.
"This is unlike any of those meets," Hendry said. "This is the best of the best. This is like the one percent of USA swimming that gets to go to a meet like this. This meet is in a bracket of its own. It doesn't compare to anything in college, it doesn't compare to a conference meet, it doesn't compare to even nationals. It's just on its own and I'm going to be there to soak it all up."
As a Seminole, Hendry excelled in the pool, finishing fifth in the 200 meter butterfly and sixth in the 100 meter butterfly, both at the 2010 ACC Championships during her senior season. She would also be a part of the bronze medal-winning 800 meter freestyle relay team at the same meet. The relay team that year broke a school record at 7:10.13. A year earlier at the ACC Championships, Hendy broke another school record, this time in the 200 meter freestyle relay at 1:30.33.
Joining Hendry in the Olympic Trials is her former teammate and current FSU swimmer Tiffany Oliver. Hendry and Oliver made up half of the school record breaking 400 meter freestyle relay team in 2010. The team recorded a time of 3:19.67. Oliver also holds a school record of 48.93 in the 100 meter freestyle. The sophomore from Southwest Ranches, Fla. recently placed fifth in the 100 meter freestyle and sixth in the 50 meter freestyle at the ACC Championships. Oliver will be competing in both of those events at the trials.
One of the bigger concerns Oliver has heading into the trials is having to deal with the additional attention given to the event. Even with the concerns, she hopes to use the extra excitement to her advantage.
"I hope it will motivate me to get up and go and to not be nervous," said Oliver. "I just have to finish the race and do my best. I'm going to try not to even think about it [additional attention]."
Along with Oliver, teammate Kaitlyn Dressel will also compete in the 50 and 100 meter freestyle. Dressel, the fifth best recruit in Florida coming out of high school according to collegeswimming.com, finished seventh at the ACC Championships in the 100 meter freestyle with a time of 49.59. She also placed 11th in the 50 meter freestyle in the same competition. Her finish in the 50 meter freestyle was her fastest in the event at 23.01.
"The ACCs are the biggest meet I've ever been to, the fastest meet I've ever been to," Dressel said comparing the trials to previous events. "I think trials will be similar to that, but obviously a lot faster."
Florida State will also be sending six men to the Olympic Trials. The men's side is headed by All-American Mark Weber who placed seventh in the 400 meter freestyle relay at the NCAA Championships. The junior from Warner Robins, Ga. also swam the 50 meter freestyle and 100 meter butterfly at NCAA's. Furthermore, Weber earned All-ACC honors as a member of both the 200 and 400 meter freestyle relay teams. The 200 meter freestyle relay team set new school, pool, and ACC records after setting a time of 1:17.73. Weber will be competing in the 50 and 100 meter freestyle at the trials. He qualified for the 50 meter free at the 2011 ConcoPhillips National Championships with a time of 23.34.
Of all those representing FSU, incoming freshman Derek Pridemore will be swimming the longest race. Pridemore will compete in the 400 and 1500 meter freestyle at the trials. He made the cut after posting a time of 15:38.14 in the 1500 meter freestyle at the 2011 Junior National Championships. Pridemore also made the mark for the 400 meter freestyle with a time of 3:59.49 while competing for the Sarasota YMCA Sharks. Nine other current Seminoles were also invited to the Olympic Trials. Competing in the 400 meter individual medley will be Tyler Ball, Mike Thomas, Julia Henkel, and Jamie Barrett. Josh Friedel will be doing both the 100 and 200 meter backstroke. Swimming in the 400 meter freestyle will be John Jessell while Kristine Polley will compete in the 200 meter breaststroke. Elizabeth Pepper will swim in the 200 meter freestyle and the 200 meter butterfly. Pepper currently holds the school record in the 200 meter butterfly with a time of 1:56.62. Connor Knight will also swim in the 200 meter butterfly.
There will be four other incoming freshmen competing along with Pridemore. Mary Elizabeth King qualified for the 100 and 200 meter butterfly. Sami Pochowski will swim the 100 meter breaststroke. Qualifying in three events is Madison Jacobi who will swim in the 400 and 800 meter freestyle as well as the 200 meter backstroke. Lauren Hine will also be competing in the 800 meter freestyle.
All time, FSU has been represented by 14 current or past swimmers and divers spanning 11 different countries. The first to represent the Garnet & Gold in the pool was gold medal-winning diver Phil Boggs in the 1976 Montreal games while the first swimmers from FSU did not come until the 1996 Olympics. The Seminoles sent five swimmers for the games in Atlanta. Since those 1996 games, Florida State has seen eleven of their 14 Olympians compete in the Atlanta, Sydney, Athens or Beijing Olympics. Even with the number of athletes going to the games, the most recent to win a medal, and the only swimmer from FSU to get a podium placement, was Stephen Parry. While representing Great Britain, Parry won bronze in the 200 meter butterfly during the 2004 games held in Athens.
Regardless of the outcome, each athlete looks to perform their best in Omaha since they are competing against the greatest swimmers across the country and in the history of the sport.