Although a couple months have come and gone since the end of the collegiate season, many NC State swimmers and alumni are gearing up to swim in one of the most high-stakes meets of their lives: the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, trials have been split into two meets, each with its own set of qualifying standards. Wave I, which took place June 4-7, kept the original Olympic Trials cuts. Wave II, scheduled for June 13-20, will implement qualifying standards based on the 41st-seeded athlete as of January 2021. To raise the stakes, the top two qualifiers in each event from Wave I will punch their tickets to Wave II, regardless of their times. Both meets are held at the CHI Health Center Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.
All in all, seven NC State swimmers qualified for Wave I. On Friday morning, the Wolfpack saw three swims in total: sophomore Luke Miller got the ball rolling with a 0.02 second-drop in the 100-meter freestyle to finish second in prelims with a time of 50.13, and junior Noah Henderson followed up with a sub-2:00 swim in the 200-meter butterfly. To round off Friday morning prelims for the Wolfpack, junior Thomas Hamlet posted a 57.85 in the 100-meter backstroke.
In the evening, Miller clocked in at 50.05 in the 100-meter freestyle to finish second and cement a race in Wave II. Despite being seventh at the turn, he displayed an incredible back-half finish to blow the competition away and record a personal best. Among other impressive swims that night were Henderson’s sixth-place finish in the 200-meter butterfly and senior Curtis Wiltsey’s fourth-place finish in the latter heats of the 800-meter freestyle.
On Saturday morning, Miller tacked on a few seconds in the 200-meter freestyle but ultimately scraped by in seventh place to lock in a second swim in the A-final that evening. Junior Heather Maccausland absolutely dominated her heat in the 100-meter breaststroke, posting a personal best of 1:09.93 to place third overall heading into finals. Senior Jack Moranetz also showed improvement as he went from a 52nd-place seed in the 100-meter breaststroke to tying for 12th-place in prelims, punching his ticket for a second swim.
Saturday night saw several exciting races, from Miller’s third-place finish in the 200-meter freestyle to break 1:50 for the first time in his career to Moranetz’s 1:02.13 in the 100-meter breaststroke for a B-final win, a time that would have placed third overall. However, the most electrifying swim of the night for the Wolfpack was Maccausland’s 100-meter breaststroke. Dropping another second and a half from prelims, she touched the wall in 1:08.27, well under the Wave II cut, to finish first.
Sunday morning was a bit low-key for the Wolfpack after the exciting performances the night before. However, Wiltsey had another strong showing in the 400-meter freestyle to finish second in 3:57.91 and Henderson shot from 16th to third to cement his spot in the A-finals in 53.55, a new best by nearly three-tenths.
Despite a slow start in the finals of the 400-meter freestyle, Wiltsey back-halved his race to nab his first podium finish in 3:56.72 and match his time heading into the meet. Although Henderson barely missed the top three in the 100-meter butterfly finals, he dropped 0.15 more seconds to lower his personal best to 53.40.
On the final morning of the meet, Henderson shaved over two-tenths of a second off his 50-meter freestyle time to finish securely in ninth heading into finals, breaking 23 seconds for the first time in his career. The Wolfpack’s only other swim of the morning was the 1500-meter freestyle, in which Wiltsey touched the wall in 16:05.41.
That evening, Henderson posted a 22.79 in the B-final of the 50-meter freestyle to lower his personal record even further and place third in his heat. Furthermore, sophomore Owen Lloyd battled a tough field in the fastest heat of the 1500-meter freestyle to finish in second place with a time of 15:36.24, locking in his spot at Wave II.
The swims posted over the weekend at Wave I of Olympic Trials offered a taste of what’s to come. In less than a week, several current NC State swimmers will join Miller, Maccausland and Lloyd at Wave II of Olympic Trials, which will feature Olympic greats such as Katie Ledecky and Ryan Lochte as well as legendary Wolfpack alum Ryan Held.