June 19, 2008
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Included among the hundreds of qualifiers over the last four years for the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials are five current or former members of the Navy men's and women's programs, four of whom will be taking part in the trials that is slated to be held June 29-July 6 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb.
Except for the opening and closing days of the event, one Mid will be competing on each of the remaining six days of the trials. All events will feature preliminary heats in the morning with semifinals and/or finals following each evening. Highlights of the trials will air nightly from 8-9 p.m. (EDT) on either NBC or USA Network.
A 50-meter length pool has been placed inside the Qwest Center for the trials, which was the venue for an NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Regional this past spring and will play host to the NCAA Women's Volleyball National Championship this coming fall for the second time in recent years. Each event will be contested in the international long-course format, meaning one length of the pool will require swimming all 50 meters (as opposed to the more traditional collegiate short-course meter format in which one length of the pool is only 25 meters).
The five Mids who have qualified for the trials are Mallory Dietrich (Jr., Pittsburgh, Pa.) in the 100 breaststroke, Thuy-Mi Dinh (Jr., Anaheim, Calif.) in the 50 freestyle, Adam Meyer (Jr., Bethesda, Md.) in the 200 butterfly and 200 individual medley, Kevin Mukri (Class of 2007, Silver Spring, Md.) in the 100 backstroke and Joe Smutz (Class of 2006, Marriottsville, Md.) in the 50 and 100 freestyle.
Mukri, who has been unable to continue his training due to the demands of flight school, will be the only athlete from the Navy contingent not able to compete at the trials.
"As wonderful and exciting as this is for the Navy swimming programs and the Naval Academy, more importantly it is an incredible achievement and crowning accomplishment in the athletic careers of our five student-athletes who have qualified for the Olympic Trials," said Navy men's swimming head coach Bill Roberts
. "The countless hours they have spent for well over a decade, training alone in a lane before the sun rose while their classmates, friends and siblings slept, pushing themselves to reach their full potential and accomplish something that even they may not have thought possible, is staggering. We are incredibly proud of all of them and are ecstatic that we at Navy had a small hand in helping them reach the coming week, one that they will remember for the rest of their lives."
"To be able to qualify five swimmers to the U.S. Olympic Trials is huge," said Navy women's swimming head coach John Morrison. "It is big for our student-athletes, big for our programs and tremendous for the Naval Academy. The event truly showcases the nation's top swimmers competing on the nation's largest stage. The Olympic Games is the pinnacle of success for a competitive swimmer. In the last half century, USA Swimming has earned more Olympic medals than any other sport. The United States Olympic Trials may be the most competitive swimming meet in the world. I am very proud of these athletes and for our program with their being able to compete at this level."
Starting off the competition for Navy will be Dietrich in the 100 breast on Monday, June 30. The 2007 Patriot League Rookie of the Meet holds the Navy record in the 100 breaststroke and 100 butterfly events, while ranking second in the 200 breast and 200 fly. She posted her trials qualifying time of 1:12.16 (1:12.59 was needed) during her senior year of high school, meaning she has had over two years to think about the trials.
"I've known about it for a couple of years, but it really didn't hit me that I was heading to the trials until last week when we started making travel plans," said Dietrich. "I have been getting more excited about this opportunity every day. I've watched the Olympics since I was young and always dreamed about being able to compete at them someday. Now, I'm one step closer to that becoming a reality. It's going to be a lot of fun, especially with so many of us from Navy going."
"Mallory has had a challenging two years," said Morrison. "In her freshmen year, she trained and competed most of the season with a torn meniscus. This past season she had surgery to repair it and since then has worked hard to prepare for these trials. Presently, her fitness level is high and she is training very well. She is a fearless competitor. I know when she stands on the blocks she will be ready for a great swim."
Meyer will hit the water on July 1 for the 200 fly and July 3 for the 200 IM. He attained both of his cut times this spring, recording a 2:02.81 in the 200 fly (2:03.99 was needed) and a 2:05.92 in the 200 IM (2:07.39 was the cut). Meyer holds Navy records in the 200 fly, 200 IM and 400 IM events and reached the finals in all three events at the 2008 EISL Championship.
"I hadn't considered making the trials until my junior year of high school, but it became one of my goals," said Meyer. "It was not until the end of my freshman year at Navy that I realized I would actually have a chance to make a qualifying time. Swimming and training with the guys at Navy gave me a focus to train my best. They are such a competitive group, it's awesome just to have the opportunity to challenge each other as we do every day."
"Adam came so close to making a trials cut time on a number of occasions," said Roberts. "It was both a great relief and a very exciting moment for all of us when he finally broke through and qualified. He enjoyed a successful sophomore year at Navy, but we feel competing at the trials could really be a springboard for him to rise to the next level."
Making the week even more fun for Meyer is that his younger brother, Mark, also has qualified for the trials.
"When my younger brother, by two years, made his cut time last summer, I knew I needed to make one soon, myself, so I could compete alongside him," said Meyer. "It would have been pretty embarrassing for me if I didn't!"
Next to compete for the Mids will be Smutz, who is entered into the 100 free on July 2 and the 50 free on July 4. A Lieutenant junior grade in the Navy, Smutz has been attending graduate school at the Univ. of Georgia since receiving his commission during graduation ceremonies in May of 2006. Once the trials are over with, he will begin supply corps school to continue his naval career.
Smutz first punched his ticket to the trials with his qualifying time of 23.33 in the 50 free (needed a time of 23.49 or better) during his senior season at Navy, then qualified to compete in the 100 free with his clocking of 51.40 last year (51.59 was the standard).
"My excitement level for the trials has grown a ton over the past couple of months," said Smutz. "In looking at the times posted around the world, I know it is going to be a very fast meet. I feel good about where I am at in my training and am pumped up about the opportunity. I am looking to put up some career-best times and help make people notice Navy swimming. It's great that there are five of us who qualified. The Navy swimming programs are continually moving forward and getting faster every year."
The first men's swimmer in the over 100 years of the award to be tabbed as the 2006 winner of the Thompson Trophy Cup -- which is presented to the midshipman, male or female, declared by the Association's Athletic Committee to have done the most during the year for the promotion of athletics at the Naval Academy -- Smutz was a member of the Navy water polo team that competed at the 2003 NCAA Championship and before going on to earn a pair of Honorable Mention All-America accolades at the 2004 NCAA Swimming Championship. He would eventually be selected as the Patriot League Swimmer of the Year at the 2006 championship.
Making those lofty achievements even more exceptional is that during the summer of 2004, Smutz was involved in a swimming accident in which he suffered a broken neck and had to endure emergency surgery, prior to which he had to sign a release stating he knew the result of the surgery could leave him either paralyzed or dead.
Ironically, the anniversary of the week of his injury corresponds to the week of the trials. In fact, when he competes in the 50 free at the trials on July 4, it will be exactly four years to the day in which he endured his surgery.
"I've thought about how far I have come in the last four years," said Smutz. "I didn't realize the trials would be four years to the week since my accident. I am blessed that I could recover and swim even faster than I did before the injury. I am very grateful to the Navy and to all of my family and friends for all of the support I have received in getting to the point where I could compete at the trials."
"In looking at what Joe has accomplished both as a water polo player and swimmer, it is difficult to not be impressed," said Roberts. "Then you add in what he has endured and overcome, and it is impossible to not be amazed. It is hard to believe that our only concern for Joe at this time four years ago was whether or not he would be able to live, walk and function as a healthy person for the rest of his life. His competing in a pair of events at the trials truly shows what the human spirit can accomplish.
"But knowing Joe as I do, I know he does not want the accident to define him as a person or as an athlete. It is something he went through and will always be a part of his life story, but he just wants to be recognized as a regular guy who swims and represents his country as a proud naval officer."
Completing the action for the Mids will by Dinh, who will take part in the 50 free on July 5. One day after the conclusion of the 2008 Patriot League Championship, during which Dinh set new Navy and Patriot League records in both sprint freestyle events and became the first swimmer in league history to record an 'A' cut qualifying time for the NCAA Championship, Dinh qualified for the trials with a clocking of 26.30 (26.39 was the standard).
"I am so excited to be able to compete with the best of the best in our country at the trials," said Dinh, who competed in both sprint freestyle events at the 2008 NCAA Championship. "I feel very privileged and thankful for the opportunity. Growing up, I never thought I would ever make it to the trials. My parents did, but all parents tell their kids that they can accomplish whatever they want to. It is very humbling to know I will be competing at the trials."
"If you told Thuy-Mi two years ago that she would make the Olympic Trials, she would have given you a smug smile and said, 'no way.' But Thuy-Mi has been relentless in learning and perfecting her technique. She is motivated and driven to fine tune every aspect of her training in the pool, in the weight room and in our dry land program. From the NCAA's to now, we look for her performances on the elite stage to continually improve."
Daily Schedule for Navy Swimmers
(preliminary heats: 12 p.m. EDT; semifinals/finals: 7:45 p.m. EDT)
Sun., June 29 -- None (TV: NBC 8-9 p.m. EDT)
Mon., June 30 -- Mallory Dietrich, 100 Breaststroke (TV: USA 8-9 p.m. EDT)
Tue., July 1 -- Adam Meyer, 200 Butterfly (TV: USA 8-9 p.m. EDT)
Wed., July 2 -- Joe Smutz, 100 Freestyle (TV: USA 8-9 p.m. EDT)
Thu., July 3 -- Adam Meyer, 200 IM (TV: USA 8-9 p.m. EDT)
Fri., July 4 -- Joe Smutz, 50 Freestyle (TV: NBC 8-9 p.m. EDT)
Sat., July 5 -- Thuy-Mi Dinh, 50 Freestyle (TV: NBC 8-9 p.m. EDT)
Sun., July 6 -- None (TV: NBC 8-9 p.m. EDT)