Feb. 23, 2012
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- A memorable Thursday saw 11 members of the Navy swimming programs post qualifying times for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials during the ECAC Long Course (50-meter length pool) Invitational held at Lejeune Hall in Annapolis.
"Today made a lot of dreams come true right here in Lejeune Hall," said Navy women's swimming head coach John Morrison. "From when you are eight years old you want to grow up to compete against the best in the world. That's what the Olympic Trials is. Our eventual team will place among the top six in every event at the Olympics.
"It is hard to make the trials anywhere, but especially so here at Navy. They certainly place a lot on the line for their country with attending the Naval Academy, and they all believe that is first and foremost why they are here. You combine the military responsibilities and the academics, then you see them come out here today and swim some phenomenal times, that well-rounded student-athlete who pushes themselves to excel is what we are all about here. This is an exciting evening for all of us you know and work with these midshipmen."
"We saw a lot of long-term and in some cases lifetime goals turning into reality before us today," said Navy men's swimming head coach Bill Roberts. "It is rewarding to see everyone step up as they did and take advantage of the opportunity. To be able to do so at home, in front of and alongside their teammates makes today even more special."
The 2012 Olympic Trials will be held June 25-July 2 in Omaha, Neb. It is estimated that there are 250,000 swimmers who are part of the U.S. Swimming program across the country. Of that number, roughly 1,250 of them -- one-half of one percent -- will qualify for the trials.
Today's efforts bring the total number of current or former Navy swimmers who have qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials to 15.
"This is a significant night for our programs," said Roberts. "I think we are going to look back on this day as a pivotal one in Navy swimming history.
"Knowing the numbers and the odds, making the trials shows you are in real elite company. The meet is a who's who of swimming for not just one year, but for several years. Qualifying for the trials shows that you have worked incredibly hard. It is very special."
"We had five total athletes make the trials four years ago, and to triple that number is a great experience and opportunity for our program," said Morrison. "It also is a statement as to what we can do against the best in the country. What happened today is part of the goals for our men's and women's swimming programs."
The first Mid to better the time standard today was Gage Trotter (So., Conroe, Texas), who did so in the 100 backstroke with a time of 57.44. A time 57.59 was needed to qualify for the trials in the event.
"This is something I have been training for since I was eight years old," said Trotter. "I came from a small town, with 36 swimmers on the team, but we all were hard workers. To go to a big school and reach the Olympic Trials, is like every small kid's dream."
Ben Grove (So., Winchester, Va.) followed by posting a time of 1:04.22 in the 100 breaststroke. He finished nearly one-half of a second faster than the qualifying time of 1:04.69.
"I have a lot of work to do," was Grove's first thought upon qualifying for the trials. "My whole goal when I started swimming at age six was to go to the trials. All that work has paid off.
"Today shows that we as a team are going fast. What we do works. It is a great team atmosphere here today. None of us could do it alone."
Ben Bondurant (Jr., Atlanta, Ga.) increased the number Mids who qualified with his time of 2:02.82 in the 200 butterfly. Bondurant was well ahead of the qualifying time of 2:03.99 that was required for the meet.
"It is the honor of my life," said Bondurant. "We all grow up dreaming about the trials and the Olympics. We all have worked this whole year to get the time we needed to qualify. It is nice to be able to put it all together. It is great to have a good group of Navy swimmers going out to the trials.
"I was a late bloomer as a swimmer, so four years ago qualifying for the trials wasn't even in my mind. But I kept working hard and in the last two years, the idea of it has become more of a reality for me. I am so happy to be representing Navy swimming at the trials."
The next Mid to punch a ticket to Omaha was Luke Hoffer (So., Chapel Hill, N.C.). He smashed the time standard of 2:20.79 in the 200 breast with his posting of 2:16.95.
"I am very excited, not only for myself but my teammates as well," said Hoffer. "It is going to be exciting to go out and represent my teammates, the Naval Academy and the Navy in Omaha."
Toni Paruso (Jr., Savannah, Ga.), who won three events at last weekend's Patriot League Championship, recorded a time of 1:00.95 to qualify for the trials in the 100 fly. Her clocking bettered the time standard of 1:01.99 in the event.
"It is the highest honor any swimmer could achieve," said Paruso. "It is what we have dreamed about. It doesn't seem tangible until you actually qualify. I remember watching the 2008 trials and thinking I would never be able to compete at it. I was 17, and pretty far off of qualifying for it. I thought that some dreams would always be just dreams. It is crazy that it is here now and is no longer a dream, but reality.
"The number of us who have now qualified is proof that what our coaches here at Navy know what they are doing and proof that the swimmers trust the coaches. It is incredibly gratifying knowing that Navy is going to have a busload of swimmers going to Omaha. What makes it better is that we are not a regular school; we also are proud to be be representing the United States Navy at the trials."
Zach Ingold's (So., Hornell, N.Y.) final effort Saturday in the Patriot League meet broke the school and league standard in the 100 freestyle. Thursday, he posted a time of 50.94 in the event to qualify for the the trials in a clocking that was well under the required time of 51.49.
"I'm just happy I made it," said Ingold. "Breaking the record this past weekend was one of my goals and I really wanted that, but my goal this whole year was to qualify for the Olympic Trials. I've been waiting on this for years. I started swimming in seventh grade and from that time on I've wanted to go to the trials. It doesn't matter how far I make it when I am there, I just wanted to make it. I was close in 2008, but I just knew it was going to happen once I came to Navy.
"Seeing so many of us qualify today takes a lot of the nerves off. They are my teammates and my brothers and doing this event together and makes it that much more meaningful."
Justin Vagts (Jr., Crofton, Md.) closed out the morning session by qualifying for the trials in the 1500 freestyle event. The 2012 Patriot League Swimmer of the Year snuck under the time standard of 15:53.59 with his clocking of 15:45.65. He then opened the evening session by recording a time of 4:25.48 to qualify for the trials in the 400 individual medley. His time to beat in the event was 4:30.49.
"It is going to be an intense meet," said Vagts of the trials, "and I am looking forward to being part of it. This is going to accomplish a goal of mine I have had since I was young. It also is awesome to be going with so many teammates. I think one of our problems at the 2011 NCAA Championship was that just myself and Mark Meyer qualified for it. If we had more teammates we would have stepped up more. Having so many of us going is just going to get us pumped up. We're looking to not just go for ourselves, but also put Navy out there as a school for swimming. A lot of younger people are going to be out there watching and hopefully come to Navy because of us."
Teammate Brendan Walsh (Fr., New York, N.Y.) was the next Mid to qualify. He posted a time of 57.53 to join Trotter in advancing in the 100 backstroke.
"Four years ago, a guy on my team made it to the trials," said Walsh. "I never thought that I would be the guy to make it. I've thought about it every summer since then, and now to finally get it, I can't believe it. It is a lifelong goal for myself and a lot of people. I watched the trials in the past but I never thought I could actually make it myself. This is just unbelievable.
"I think it is great to be going with so many of my teammates. It shows a huge progression for our program. We have limitless possibility for what we can do for the next few years."
Sean Murphy (So., Hudson, Ohio) kept Navy's momentum going as he qualified for the trials in the 100 breaststroke. Murphy's time of 1:04.65 just edged the required standard of 1:04.69.
"This is mainly a feeling of relief," said Murphy. "This was my main goal for the year. After seeing everyone make it this morning and being close myself, I was just relieved when I saw the clock. Four years ago, I was nowhere near making the trials. I watched those guys compete at it and I didn't even think I could possibly go."
Rheanna Vaughn (So., Aliso Viejo, Calif.) became the second member of the Navy women's swimming team on the day and third overall to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Trials. After competing at the 2008 trials in the 200 fly, she advanced to the 2012 meet in the same event with her time today of 2:16.18 (2:16.49 was the standard).
"I am really excited," said Vaughn. "This was a very big weight off of my shoulders. I am glad to not have to worry about it. The 2008 trials was a very surreal experience. I was very young, but it was a lot of fun and I wanted to go again. Making the Olympics has been a dream of mine. There will be a lot of us from Navy going. That is going to be very exciting for all of us and shows how our program has developed over the last few years."
Completing the list of Mid who can book flights to Omaha is Conor Campbell (So., Manassas, Va.). He tallied a time of 2:04.36 to better the standard of 2:04.99 in the 200 backstroke.
"This is so amazing," said Campbell. "I've been chasing this for four years. The guys starting racking up times this morning, and I just got caught up in it. This has always been a dream, for myself and everyone who swims. I was two and half seconds off of the cut time so I didn't think I was going to be able to pull it off today. We all just got into the swing of things. I credit my teammates and their support today for getting me my time.
"We went to the U.S. Summer Nationals with 13 guys last year, and I thought that was a lot for that meet. It is incredible to have that many guys go to this Olympic Trials."
The swimmers who qualified today will join current Mids Mark Meyer (Sr., Bethesda, Md.), Riley Mita (Fr., Stevenson Ranch, Calif.) and Laura Gorinski (Jr., Greensburg, Pa.), along with 2010 graduate Adam Meyer at the trials. Mark Meyer qualified for the trials in the 200 fly at the 2010 U.S. Summer Nationals, Mita advanced through his time in the 1500 free that he attained two years ago while swimming for Canyons Aquatic Club, Gorinski previously qualified in both butterfly events at a meet in December of 2010, while Adam Meyer posted qualifying times in the 200 fly and 200 individual medley events at the 2011 World Military Games.
"It is going to be so much more fun now that we have so many more people going," said Gorinski. "The whole process will be more enjoyable and easier. Just the chance to train together with someone will be better than what it would have been by myself. Today shows that we are getting better as a program."
"The Olympic Trials is one of those things that you look up to for your whole life from when you were a kid," said Mita. "Once I got my time I couldn't believe it. That's what I have worked for my entire life. It's a dream kind of thing. I remember watching the 2008 trials and saying I wanted to be there in 2012. It was a long shot, but as I got older and faster it became more of a reality.
"I am pretty excited about what has taken place today. It is exciting when you qualify yourself, but going with as many guys as we now have, that says something about your program. It is something to look forward to."
"This is great," said Meyer of being able to compete at the trials with a number of teammates. "It is going to be a lot more exciting. We are going to have a lot of support and a lot more people to watch than there was in 2008 (when both Mark and Adam qualified). This says a lot about Navy swimming. This is huge for us as a program."
Also qualifying for the Olympic Trials today was Marist's Greta Leberfinger (100 breast), Rider's Drew Peterson (200 IM), Army's Ayman Andrews (100 fly) and Army assistant coach Amanda Croix (50 free).