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Swimmers Taking Advantage Of ‘Extra Year’ To Prepare For Olympic Trials

For many collegiate swimmers, preparation for the United States Olympic Trials doesn’t just start in the few months leading up to the event in June. The preparation starts at the beginning of the collegiate season. 

Well, at least it does for Penn State swimmers Maddie Cooke, Michael Daly, and William Roberson. 

“Every day, I try and think about it, have it in the back of my head, just to start prepping for it,” Cooke said.

Cooke, Daly, and Roberson were already beginning to lay out their plans to prepare for the United States Olympic Trials in June last March when the coronavirus pandemic brought things to a grinding halt. Then, the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo were postponed to summer 2021. 

With an extra year to prepare and get ready for the trials, Daly and his teammates are easing back into the start of the collegiate season. 

“Right now, the main thing I’m doing is just trying to get in shape, but also not rush it to the point where I injure myself,” Daly said. “Because if I’m out of the water for that long and I jump right back into main training, I would cripple my whole body.”

The preparation for the season and the Olympic Trials this time last year wasn’t much different, Roberson said, adding that they’re doing a lot of conditioning work at the moment.

“The coaching staff and the trainers are working really hard to get us competition-ready,” Roberson said. 

While the United States Olympic Trials is always in the back of the swimmers’ minds, their main focus is the uncertain start of the upcoming season. 

Taking this extra year to hone in on skills and tackle weaknesses is something Daly is looking forward to, with a focus on improving his breaststroke. Devoting time to strengthen his hamstrings out of the pool is something he is hopeful will contribute to its improvement. 

“I know what I need to work on from past seasons,” Daly said. “So, even though I haven’t been racing in a long time, I still know what I need to do.” 

He added that focusing on the little things in and out of the pool is something he believes will take him to the next level with the help of his coaches and Performance Enhancement Coach Matt Dorn. 

After around five months away from the pool, Daly said the long break made him realize how much he wanted to get back into the water. 

“I realized I have that time to get back to where I was because before trials last year before corona hit, I was in a really good spot and I felt like I could make a pretty big impact when I went to trials. Maybe come back into a final if I had a really good swim,” Daly said. “I feel like this year gives me the point to get back to that after the time off from corona.

“Outside of the pool, when it comes to just mentally, I’m just trying to have fun with it,” Daly continued. “I think that these last five months have shown me how much I missed it, having not been able to do it pretty much at all.”

Roberson agreed that he is looking forward to the extra time to prepare for the trials, adding that he felt like he was in a good spot when last season started and was optimistic for trials.

Beyond the collegiate season, Cooke, Daly, and Roberson are already solidifying their training plans for the United States Olympic Swimming Trials in mid-June 2021, held across the country in Omaha, Nebraska. 

“Typically for a big meet like trials, you’ll begin to taper about a month, two months out depending on what your event is and what you’re trying to accomplish,” Roberson said. “Because my event is really short, it’s a 50 free…it’ll be over in 21, 22 seconds that I’ll probably have a pretty long taper for that. I think about April is when I plan to really start dialing in for that race.”

Cooke said she’s aiming to start prepping for the trials around March, with the plan for the training and competitions of the collegiate season to end around February or March. 

“I’ll probably spend those next few months really honing in because that’ll be the next big competition,” Cooke said. 

Feeling confident about the preparation for the 2020 United States Olympic Trials, the swimmers are hopeful they will feel the same level of preparedness come June 2021. 

“Having a brand new year, it’s one more year to get better, one more year to focus on things that you’re good at, focus on your weaknesses,” Cooke said. “It’s one more year just to really grow in every way.”

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About the Author

Acacia Aster Broder

Acacia is a junior from Philadelphia majoring in digital and print journalism with a sports certificate. Although she considers herself a Philadelphian at heart, she is a Toronto and Seattle sports fan. Follow her on Twitter @acaciaaster or Instagram @acaciaastr for hockey takes and mediocre analysis.

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