Purdue, Swimming, Olympics, Boilermakers
Wed July 25, 2012
Purdue swimmers build on Olympic experience
"It's nothing like I've ever experienced."
"Fire shooting out of the deck and a real cool waterfall thinging that would spell words."
"Dimming of the lights and spotlights on the pool."
"Flame throwers go off inside of the pool, which was pretty sweet."
When Purdue swimmers Emily Fogle, Danny Tucker, Kristin Gilson, and Luke Trimmer usually take to the pool for their meets, it’s a little more intimate affair than one that features pyrotechnics and light shows.
But, late last month, these student-athletes got a taste of what it is like to be on the national stage competing against some of the best in the world.
The four were among 19 Boilermakers who participated in the U.S Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska.
Fogle competed in the 100 and 200 meter breaststroke at the event. The Junior says swimming in that atmosphere forced her to raise her level of performance, both physically and mentally.
“There's Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Rebecca Stoney all those Olympians at that meet and you are expected to swim with them and race them and potentially beat them," she said. "In order to do that you have to have your confidence at an all time high and just knowing that you put in the work and just swimming your heart out.”
Neither Fogle nor any of her teammates qualified for a spot on the U.S roster that will swim for gold in London later this summer.
But Purdue women’s swim coach John Klinge says calling the Olympic Trials a failure would be short sighted.
“I think it's a good sign that we took 19 athletes to the Olympic trials. But, I think more importantly, it was just one more experience against really international level athletes," he said. "That just helps prepare us for stepping up, racing, and doing well.”
Olympic gold medals will have to wait for Purdue’s swimmers. But, they believe the experience of competing against those heading to London could translate into another title that has eluded the program for nearly 100 years…a Big Ten Championship.
“It definitely eases the tension for big meets like that," said Danny Tucker. "You go to Olympic trials, everyone is watching. It's a huge scale meet. So going to Big Tens, I can be a lot more relaxed. I've seen a lot of big meets and this is just a good sign of what’s to come.”
Tucker is the team’s reining Most Valuable Swimmer. He has his sights set squarely on establishing Purdue as one of the elite program’s in the conference.
The Boilermakers have a storied history of swimming with several Olympians and individual champions, but as a team, Purdue has never been able to capture a conference crown.
Men’s head coach Dan Ross says in order for that to change, the ten men and nine women who competed in Omaha need to build on that meet to spur their development.
“Next season we should see the benefits in this (Purdue's) pool and in the Big Ten Champions and NCAA Champions," he said. "We are kind of a a delayed gratification sport because what you do this season in terms of physiological work shows up next season.”
Few people may have a better understanding of how this group of Purdue swimmers can use their Olympic Trial experiences better than Darlene Renie.
“If I can remember one thing, I remember my knees wobbling up there as I was getting ready to step into the blocks. It's very nerve racking.”
Renie describes what it was like for her when she competed in the 1988 U.S Olympic trials.
Now an assistant swim coach and recruiting coordinator at Purdue, Renie is also one of the most accomplished swimmers in school history.
She used her Olympic trial experience as a building block for a career that included individual Big Ten Championships and becoming Purdue’s first female All-American in the sport.
Renie says if the current batch of Purdue swimmers that got a taste of Olympic level competition can channel the lessons learned, they can have similar success.
“It's hard to explain until you are in that moment the excitement level and the intensity level," she said. "So, the more they can do at that level the better they will be at the Big Ten Championship, at the Purdue versus I-U meets which is intense, at the NCAA Championships and beyond.”
The spotlights and fire shows are now over. Purdue’s swimmers are back to spending the bulk of their time in the more familiar lanes of the school’s aquatic center.
But, Emily Fogle says now that the Boilermakers have literally been alongside greatness, they are only more motivated to take their skills to the next level.
“I think this will only help for recruiting and just showing everyone that Purdue is a place where fast swimming is bred," she said. "In Big Tens we've only been moving up. NCAA's we've been sending a lot of summers. So (U.S Olympic) trials is just another showcase of what Purdue swimming is and I think it will definitely help in the future.”
A future that looks as bright as the lights that greeted the team at the Olympic Trials.