Friday, May 13, 2016

5 to watch in Omaha


 Digg Image Reddit Image Image StumbleUpon Image RSS Feed Image Mail Image Print Image



Every year, there are several U.S. swimmers who have the meets of their lives to make their first Olympic team. This summer in Omaha will most likely be no exception. 

Here are five of the United States’ best swimming hopefuls to have their breakthrough meet at U.S. Olympic Trials – Swimming this summer. 

Will Licon celebrates his win in the 200 breast at NCAAs. (Large)
Will Licon

Athletes realize their potential at various ages and stages of their lives.

For University of Texas All-American Will Licon, his came as a 10-year-old. 

“It felt like already a really long process getting there, but that was when I realized I truly had talent for the sport,” said Licon, who hails from the El Paso, Texas, area. “My family also saw potential in me and made many sacrifices to make sure I had every opportunity to reach it.”

Licon’s journey to his current status – five-time NCAA Champion, U.S. National Team member and 2016 Olympic hopeful – began when he was 7. 

His dad being a former competitive swimmer at Texas A&M, Licon started summer league and within a few months joined a local club. Shortly thereafter, he took a serious interest in the sport. 

That interest and subsequent hard work paid dividends last summer at the Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships where he took home the silver medal in both the 200 individual medley and 200 breaststroke events. 

“I kind of think of myself as a late bloomer, so it’s great that things are coming together for me now,” Licon said. “I didn’t have a weight training regimen in high school, so doing that at Texas has made a tremendous difference in my strength and endurance. Eddie and Kris are two of the best at teaching and pushing us to strive for more.”
He’s confident everything will work itself out as it’s supposed to now that NCAA Championships are finished and he’s able to focus on final preparations for Olympic Trials next month in Omaha. 

Four years ago, he finished 19th in the 200 breaststroke as a 17-year-old. Now, he’s a definite Olympic contender. “I’m excited about the possibility of representing the United States at an international meet,” he said. “I didn’t qualify (in 2014) for the teams that competed internationally last summer, so I’m more eager than ever to experience that.”

Josh Prenot (large)
Photo courtesy: Tim Binning - The

Josh Prenot

Even though he went just under 2:09 (2:08.90) in the final of the 200 breaststroke last summer at World University Games, Josh Prenot expected better.

Just a few weeks before at the 2015 Arena Pro Swim Series at Charlotte, he went under 2:09 for the first time and felt that was a harbinger of things to come.

Still, despite what he considers a “slow”  swim (he shaved almost 4 seconds between prelims and finals) proved more than fast enough in the end to earn his first senior-level gold medal and place his name among the top swimmers in the world heading into Olympic Trials next month.

“I genuinely expected to be faster in the final, but it was still great to win,” said Prenot, who completed his senior season this spring at Cal, winning the 400 IM at NCAA Championships.

“Overall, WUGs was a great learning and practice experience for me – particularly training my mind and body to compete in several events on the same day – something I will no doubt be doing at Trials in Omaha.”

Prenot ended WUGs with a second gold medal in the 200 individual medley (tied with Australia’s Justin James) and a silver in the 400 IM – an event he calls “hit and miss” for him as far as strategy and outcomes are concerned.

He has also added victories this season in the 200 breast at the Arena Pro Series Swim meets in Austin and Orlando, and last December at the Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool, he won the 200 IM – displaying a versatility that gives him many options at Trials next month. 

At WUGs last summer, he was part of the team that set a new swimming record for gold medals (15) and overall medals (34) at a World University Games. Swimming also accounted for more than half of all the medals won by the United States at the games (54) and a huge majority of gold medals (20) overall.

“It was so great to look into the stands and see everyone cheering for one another and compete at a super-high level,” he said. “It was a great test for myself and for everyone.”

He considered taking this past season off to train exclusively for Trials, but Prenot said he knew that Dave Durden and his staff would put him in the best possible shape for Trials. 

“We trained long course four mornings a week (in addition to short course) this season, and Dave puts together plans to get the most out of our training every day,” said Prenot, who admits he was a bit overwhelmed at his first Olympic Trials in 2012. “I have no doubt I’ll be ready this summer.”

Molly Hannis (large)
Molly Hannis

Swimmers grow up imagining – dreaming, if you will – of what it would feel like to experience a gold-medal swim. 

For those select few who do get to realize the feeling, it’s often far beyond anything they imagined.

For Molly Hannis, hers came on a relay with her University of Tennessee teammates at NCAA Championships three years ago. 

It proved to be an experience she was able to share with her closest friends while getting the thrill of racing….and winning.

“I’ve always loved racing on relays as much, if not more than individual events, so I guess it’s no surprise that my favorite ‘gold medal’ swim was the 400 medley relay at NCAAs in 2013,” she said. 

“After prelims, I remember we all felt confident we had room to improve our splits. Going into finals I recall a high level of confidence in both myself and my teammates.”

Now, with Olympic Trials just over a month away, she’s ready to experience some individual success and make her first Olympic team.

While she didn’t win any medals (she finished sixth in the 200 breaststroke, swimming almost a second slower in the final than she had in prelims and semis) last summer at World University Games, Hannis said she learned a lot about herself as a swimmer and competitor. 

She used those lessons last August at the Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships where she finished as the silver medalist in the 200 breaststroke. She also made the semifinals of the 100 breast.

Hannis spent the past year living and training with a group of post-grad/professional swimmers in the University of Tennessee’s Pilot Aquatics (TNAQ) to prepare for next month’s Olympic Trials in Omaha.

With so much experience over the past few years, Hannis said she is expecting quite a bit from herself at Trials.
“Over the past couple years, I’ve seen my chances of making the Olympics continue to steadily improve,” she said. “I feel very blessed and very excited to know that I have a legitimate shot at making an Olympic Team.”

Josh Schneider (large)
Josh Schneider

With the build of an outside linebacker, at first glance Josh Schneider looks much more like a football player than freestyle sprinter.

But as we all know, looks can be deceiving, and while he may compete with the rough-and-tumble mentality of a gridiron gladiator (he did play linebacker and wide receiver in high school), Schneider is every bit the consummate swimmer. 

And he makes no apologies for it.

“I’m a very physical swimmer, but I haven’t always been,” he said. “When I was a freshman and sophomore in high school, I was still 6-4 but I weighed around 190 pounds. Over the past few years, I’ve worked hard in the weight room to get stronger, and that’s resulted in faster times.”

But that’s not where it begins and ends for Schneider, one of the top freestyle swimmers in the world over the past few years despite missing making several of the top-level teams.

Since he finished fourth in the 50 freestyle and missed making the 2012 Olympic Team – a harsh disappointment that stuck with him for quite a while – the University of Cincinnati All-American and NCAA Champion has recommitted himself to the sport. 

That dedication includes paying strict attention to his nutrition, giving up drinking alcohol, sleeping and resting his body more and just taking the requirements and responsibilities of being a professional athlete more seriously.
In many ways and for the first time in many years – possibly in his career – Schneider is fully invested in doing everything he can to swim his best and make his first Olympic team this summer. 

“I honestly thought I was doing enough to make the Olympic team in 2012, but I didn’t and that was an eye-opening experience for me,” he said. “It truly showed me that I didn’t give enough last time, but that’s not the case this time around. 

“After that race, I spent a lot of time analyzing what I could have done differently – technique, body position, stroke pacing, breathing, even facial tension – and I made changes that have made a positive impact. I’m more focused, and I’m really seeing how special it can be when you see how far you can go when you fully invest in something. It gives you a different perspective.” 

Testament to this came last summer when Schneider swam to gold – his first international medal – in the 50 freestyle at the Pan American Games. 

And what if he comes up short again next month in Omaha at the “old age” of 28? 

“Right now, I don’t even want to think about it (the possibility of not making the team),” said Schneider, who believes this year his best shot to make the U.S. Olympic team will be in the 100 freestyle rather than the 50.

“You can’t leave things up to chance – you have to take the necessary steps and preparations to make sure you’re ready to make it happen.”

Hali Flickinger (large)
Hali Flickinger

Hali Flickinger proudly describes herself as an introvert – and as such, she craves an introvert’s career.

Not as a public speaker. Not as someone who interacts regularly with people. Not as someone who draws much or any attention to herself. 

A numbers person, she prefers working more in her head and less with other people – unless, of course, she’s working with her University of Georgia or U.S. National teammates.

That’s a different story all together. 

“But when it comes to swimming, I am all about my teammates,” she said. “It’s the one area where I’m happy to put aside my shy nature for the benefit of being with others. I just hold myself to very high standards, so I do what I need to do to accomplish my goals.”

For the past couple of years, Flickinger has made the most of those opportunities by swimming fast. 

Her third-place performance in the 200 butterfly at the 2014 Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships earned her a spot on the 2014 Pan Pacific Championship team, as well as last summer’s World University Games. 

In Korea, she contributed a leg to the United States’ gold medal-winning 800 freestyle relay and also won individual bronze medals in the 200 butterfly and 400 individual medley events. 

A few weeks later at the Phillips 66 Nationals in San Antonio, Flickinger won her first National title in the 200 fly, and also finished in the top 3 in the 200 and 400 freestyle and 200 backstroke events – displaying her versatility. 

Having completed her senior season at Georgia this past spring with multiple All-America honors, Flickinger believed in her growth at Georgia so much that, rather than redshirt to focus on training exclusively for Trials, she put her faith in Jack Bauerle and the rest of the Bulldog coaching staff to achieve her Olympic dreams.

Four years ago at Trials, she was a recent high school graduate taking in the entire experience.
This time, she knows she’s a strong contender, and she intends to make sure she’s in the thick of the race – literally and figuratively. 

“Olympic Trials (in 2012) wasn’t the greatest experience for me, but it proved to be a great learning experience; all the big meets I’ve been part of lately have taught me some valuable things,” Flickinger said. “This time, because of Pan Pacs and WUGs and NCAAs, etc., I feel so much more prepared. 

“I have learned to move on from each race and not allow the last one to linger, and that helps me keep focused on what’s next. I’ve always worked a ton on my race strategy, post-race recovery, time management between events, etc. Overall, I just know this summer will be better and different for me.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Danielle Galyer


 Digg Image Reddit Image Image StumbleUpon Image RSS Feed Image Mail Image Print Image


Danielle Galyer (large)


The University of Kentucky has two women on the U.S. National Team. Danielle Galyer also won an NCAA title this year in the 200 back as a junior. As a team captain, Galyer likes to lead by example, so her cumulative 4.0 grade-point average sets the bar high as a role model. She talks about life in Lexington, and how her preparation for Olympic Trials is going, in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.

1. How is training going and did you ever think when you were younger you would be, in 2016, a college senior-to-be, the current NCAA champ in the 200, and on the National Team with Olympic Trials quickly approaching?
Danielle: Training feels good. I definitely never saw myself coming this far. So we’re just trying to take it day by day and enjoy what’s happening. If it ends up in Rio, that’s great. But if not, I am super excited for my senior year and to try to improve in the pool and in school. There’s a lot to be excited about, and just going to Trials is an incredible opportunity.

2. You have a Canadian mother, your father is from New Zealand, and you were born in Australia -- four countries you could represent, and I wonder if you thought about trying to represent New Zealand for the Olympics?
At one point earlier it was kind of a tough decision, but this is where I am -- who I am, is an American -- and I am proud to have represented the United States at Junior Pan Pacs (between her freshman year and sophomore year of college -- she has a late birthday and started college at 17). And once I did that -- once you represent a country at an international meet -- you have declared your representation; I think that is a rule. But at one point of course we considered the option of going for New Zealand, but I wanted to fight for a spot for one of the best teams in the world. So I am happy for having the decision behind me. 

3. How big was that Junior Pan Pacs meet considering where we are now in the quad?
Definitely, I learned so much from the coaching staff and the other swimmers. I hadn’t really gone to any other national events or had that kind of exposure at the international level. Coach Jack Roach and all the other swimmers were definitely an inspiration. You learn so much, from things in practice, drills, to seeing things from a different mentality. You just pick up so much being around these inspiring people.

4. You commit to Kentucky, and then end up with a new head coach in Lars Jorgensen -- how did that work out?
I mean, UK has been anything and everything I could have ever imagined. We didn’t know when I committed that we would get a whole new coaching staff and a whole new mentality -- a new approach. For me, it worked out. But I knew when I committed that I was committing to the school and my education -- this is a place I knew I wanted to be, and to spend four years here. I love the team, our coaches, and the academic and athlete support people. Lars has big dreams and big goals, and that is helping to push me to my full potential.
Kentucky women (large)

5. You have really transformed physically with the program in college -- how rewarding is that?
Well, I actually came to college pretty weak (laughs) -- I had never lifted weights. I am naturally small-boned and definitely have a longer stroke not really made for the power you’d want in the 100 or 50. I am also blessed with a great training partner, Bridget Alexander, who pushes me, and I push her back; we balanced each other out.

6. You were so young for 2012 Olympic Trials, what was that like?
I swam horribly but it was a good experience. It’ll definitely help me prepare for this time. I had not been on that big of a stage before. I was 15, it was very scary -- intimidating if you let it be -- but I know what to expect and I will focus on swimming more than the incredible environment.

7. How have you improved so much in college?
I think it started just from coming in freshman year, whether I am working with our weight staff or in the pool, I am definitely one to focus on giving my best every day. Maybe one thing doesn’t feel good today so you choose something else to work on, and you do the best you’ve ever done that particular thing -- so my goal is always to do something better. So that builds from my freshman year and I have seen results get better on other things -- growth in other areas. And then this past year in particular, the results started to reflect that.

8. That’s funny you mention weights. When I was 17 at the USAFA Prep School I worked out and didn’t put on a pound and actually lost weight -- then first fall semester at the Academy I worked out and added 15 pounds -- my body wasn’t ready, does that make sense?
I completely agree -- I don’t think my body was ready for real weights. In high school we did more dryland type conditioning work. But after getting here, and having such knowledgeable weight and conditioning staff, doing the Olympic lifts has really helped me. I could’ve been injured had I started sooner and gotten into it faster, which would have caused more struggle. So it was nice to come in fresh, learn to do everything properly and have our amazing staff put together the right plan for me, and stick to it.

9. You mention UK coaches and staff, the Junior National Team coach and teammates, so often -- you really appreciate these people, don’t you?
 I think it’s amazing that I am fortunate to have these people in my life and as a resource. And there is definitely no way I would be where I am without the weight staff and the swimming people, the people who prepare our food, the academic staff, and Chloe (Smith), who set this interview up today. The big thing is how well these people all work together to make sure our lives are balanced. The work we are doing today, our coaches know, is for swimming, but the reality is, it is setting us up to prepare for success in life. Swimming will end someday, but the lessons we learn from it won’t.

10. So the 4.0 -- how do you do that for three years?
Anyone who knows me knows academics are really important. Still having my 4.0 is (laughs) something which I really love. Getting (NCAA elite) awards for school is almost better than winning the NCAA Championship (in the 200 backstroke) this year. I take pride in my school work. Again though, I wouldn’t be able to succeed in the classroom without the academic resources. And even though our coach Lars loves swimming, he knows how important academics are, and that there are times we really need to focus more on school.

11. What’s your major and does it help with your swimming?
I am a double major, psychology and political science. The political science helps me understand the world, which is important. The psychology helps in all aspects. I am good at analyzing myself and understanding relationships with my friends, and building and maintaining those relationships. People are motivated by different things. It just helps having that as a resource to understand situations, not escalate something, or understand where people are coming from on different issues. I like being that teammate that anyone can come to about anything.

12. Double majoring and keeping a 4.0, makes the curve a bit steeper, doesn’t it?
Danielle: Honestly, it was (laughs) partially luck. Halfway through sophomore year I didn’t realize I still had a 4.0 -- my goal is to do my best in each class and learn the most I can and the grade takes care of itself no matter what it is -- and then I did realize I still had it so shouldn’t let it go almost halfway through. I just like to do my best at whatever I am doing. My Mom always told me, “Give whatever you are doing 100 percent, and it will work out fine.” The big thing for me is balancing my time. I like to sleep -- I don’t pull all-nighters. So if I have a half-hour during the day I’ll run through a lecture or do part of my homework. Those three or four half hours throughout the day add up, so I am able to get the sleep I need, which then keeps me more alert and able to focus.

13. How much do you enjoy the diversity of your campus?
Yes, for sure, it’s something special. Even on our team we have people from Brazil, Zimbabwe, Australia -- there are people here from all over the world. It’s so cool to see their personalities, see how their family’s work and their culture. We also have a pretty close team, and several who are from Ohio, so those of us from further away are always invited to their homes, especially for holidays like Easter, so we’re able to have that more family-style holiday and atmosphere, which really helps the homesickness and makes our parents feel better that we have that kind of opportunity and aren’t here alone.

14. Your sister Ali has also committed to UK for this fall, won’t that be fun?
It’s a great opportunity to have more time with her since we have both obviously changed since I came here. I think she was able to make her decision so early and pretty confidently because she knows more from my stories than she could find on a weekend recruiting trip or just for a night. So she knows this is a good fit, but it was all her choice. I do think it will be a good place for her because of the coaches and support staff. She might struggle a little bit early and get tired (laughs) of hearing how she’s “Danielle’s sister,” but she’ll make a name for herself and find her way. We kind of like that we have a little bit of overlap on our paths -- that’s something special. I know she’ll make her own friends and develop her own path, but I’m thankful I get to spend more time with her.

15. What events will you do at Trials?
My focus is the 200 back. I have other cuts (including the 100 back). I really like the 200 free long course. So, I don’t know. I have a 200 IM cut and like that as well. But we’ll see about all of that -- that decision will come before Trials once we see where I am in the last month coming up now.

16. Training freestyle and IM, does that help you with training?
It definitely helps me stay interested. It is something I was interested in in college, training and competing in other events so I would not (laughs) spend all day, every day staring at the ceiling. The IM is a funny story: My last IM practice in high school (in Greenville, South Carolina) before taper, senior year, my coach said, “Congratulations, you never have to swim another IM in your life!” But when I came to school, we didn’t really have anyone to swim it in a meet, and it just kind of went from there to where the 400 IM became a big part of my freshman year. That was good because I didn’t have the speed for the 100 back, and I swam the 400 IM at SECs (as a freshman). And I think next year I might focus on the freestyle a little more than the IM. We’ll see how I feel after Trials -- the 200 IM didn’t go as well as I wanted this year (as a sophomore) at SECs. I might try the 500 free.

17. Did you feel like you were going to win the 200 back at NCAAs?
 I definitely knew I was close. Lars believed in me more than I believed in myself, which is (laughs) normal sometimes. I just try to stick to the race plan, trust the coaches and their taper plan, and not really worry about it a week or a few days out -- you don’t feel that good, but if you know you’ve done the training, you’ll be fine.

18. To get that first NCAA title ever for the UK women, what does that mean to you?
I mean, it’s really cool because I wouldn’t be here and could never have done it without so many other people, so it’s theirs as much as it is mine. But it’s also cool to know that I’ll come back to visit here someday and I’ll be the one who got that first one -- and hopefully by then there will be many more after me. I’ll always tell my family and my kids something -- maybe that (laughs) will make them think I am cool.

19. Being a team captain must be rewarding -- what does being a good leader mean to you?
Being a captain means a lot. But I also think that every person has their own influence and their own way of leading within the team. Being a captain doesn’t mean you are the only leader. There is something, an area, where everyone can lead. If you aren’t the fastest, maybe you can help someone with homework. Maybe it means driving someone to the grocery store who doesn’t have a car. Inviting someone home who is a long way from their parents. Being a liaison with the coaching staff. Suggesting, planning and organizing events. Everyone on our team does a really good job with this. Everyone has their thing.

20. This progression to National Team, NCAA Champion -- what was a catalyst in this incredible improvement in your swimming the past two years?
 I never thought I was going to be on the National Team. I didn’t even make Junior National Team until I was out of high school -- that’s very rare, I was just (laughs) blessed with a late birthday. To be able to go through my freshman year of college and then go to Junior Pan Pacs...those swims helped me find where I could improve, where I needed to get better, plus I had that year of lifting weights. So I think being that younger student, which wasn’t always great (laughs) growing up, was a blessing in disguise. Being on the Junior National team and around those people was so motivating. It was a chance to learn a lot, at a period when I needed to and was ready to learn a lot. One thing that I have learned in life is being open to a different perspective. You can -- and should -- learn from everyone you meet. Everyone is different, and whether or not you agree with their perspective, it can be something you utilize to become better at some important aspect in your life.