When senior swimmer Jenny Rusch emerged from the water, she wiped her eyes, looked up and saw that she had achieved a dream more than a year in the making. Rusch had just raced 50 meters against the clock in a time trial at Purdue on May 19 to make the cut for the Olympic trials in her second-to-last opportunity to qualify.
“Just joy and relief came over me because I’ve wanted this cut, and I knew I could do it,” Rusch said. “And just seeing that time up there and knowing that I was under the qualifying cut was just so overwhelming — it was great.”
Rusch and four other MSU swimmers — seniors Lauren Baisden, Jacob Jarzen and juniors Pat Falconer and Bryan Williams — are busy spending the next few weeks preparing for U.S. Swimming Olympic trials in Omaha, Neb., to compete against some of the best athletes in the world and vie for a trip to the London games.
Athletes across the country qualify for the trials, which run June 25 through July 2, by matching or surpassing a predetermined qualifying time. For individual events, the top two performers will represent the U.S. in the Olympics this summer.
Each night of the trials can draw upward of 16,000 fans, MSU swimming coach Matt Gianiodis said.
“I’m pleased because it wasn’t really given to them; they really had to earn it, and they did,” Gianiodis said. “They were really rewarded for their hard work.”
Rusch and Baisden are planning on a few more weeks of hard, physical training in East Lansing before they taper — a rest period designed to relax the body — prior to the trials.
Baisden, competing in the 200-meter backstroke, has been swimming twice a day and focusing on eating better to prepare her body, while the countless sticky notes with goals and inspirational sayings that cover her room help prep her mind.
“I do want to have fun because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I also want to make sure I swim my best, and that’s exactly what I’m training for,” Baisden said, adding she hopes to shave two to three seconds off of her time.
Cracking the top 16 is the goal for Jarzen, who has already began tapering in preparation for the four events he’ll compete in at the trials. While exerting less activity on his body, Jarzen said he’s using the days leading up to the event to fine-tune his technique by paying attention to detail and improving his underwater kicking.
“I’m very excited about swimming with all of the professional swimmers and all of the Olympians,” Jarzen said. “And it will be interesting to see how I compete against them.”
Rusch, Baisden and Jarzen all shared the sentiment that it would be an honor to represent the U.S. in the Olympics, while acknowledging the difficulty of earning that privilege against hundreds of competitors.
Gianiodis, however, would like to see his swimmers use the trials as an opportunity to record personal best times and better themselves as swimmers.
“Ultimately, I’d like to see them use this experience swimming against the nation’s best and bring it next year, and (see) them having a good finish to their years in the collegiate season,” Gianiodis said.