Olympic Swimming Trials
When: June 25-July 2
Where: CenturyLinks Center; Omaha, Neb.
For more information: www.usaswimming.org
Paul Powers is still a little overwhelmed.
How else is a 16-year old supposed to react to overcoming the odds as one of the youngest swimmers and making it to the Olympic Trials in the 50-meter freestyle?
“Making the Olympic Trials is definitely a wow moment,” said Powers, a rising junior at North Hall. “It feels cool.”
Powers was already one of the top high school swimmers in the state. In February, he won a Class AAA state title in the 50 yard freestyle and second in the 100 at Georgia Tech.
However, being in the conversation for a spot in the 2012 Summer Games in London is a whole new experience.
Making the Olympic Trials for Powers certainly was dramatic. He failed to make the cut in the preliminaries, but came back and swam a new personal best (23.42 seconds) in his “B” finals, posting the second fastest time of a 16-year-old nationally this year.
His mother echoed his emotion about making the Trials.
She saw first-hand at the CenturyLinks Center during the Mutual of Omaha Swimvitational as Powers battled past swimmers, all but one older than himself, to claim the consolation finals on June 10. The Olympic Trials in the 50 freestyle will be in the same venue June 30.
“Wow,” said his mother, Beth Powers. “Making the Olympic Trials is so big.
“He never ceases to amaze me.”
Making the Olympic Trials was a goal two years in the making for Powers. Making his first experience in Omaha even sweeter was the fact that his younger brother Ty, 15, posted a 24.59 in the race, also second fastest of swimmers his age nationally this year.
“For Paul to make the Olympic Trials is quite a phenomenal accomplishment,” said his swim coach Andy Deichert. “I can say he’s the most gifted swimmer that I’ve ever worked with.”
And younger brother Ty isn’t far behind. The younger of the Powers brothers also took on the 100 breaststroke (1:10.98), posting the fastest time in the state in his age group this year and ninth nationally.
“Ty’s knocking it out of the park, too,” Deichert said.
With his goal two years in the making already in the bag — and just now starting to sink in — Paul’s goal for the Olympic Trials are just as clear with 176 swimmers in the 50 freestyle field.
“I want to be able to make the semifinals (Top 24),” Powers said. “If I can do that, I’ll be really happy.
Paul knows that making the semifinals will be a tough task, just as daunting as making the cut on his final race to qualify for the Olympic Trials. He anticipates needing to come in around 22.7 to make that happen based on others’ qualifying times.
And now that his biggest goal for 2012 is already secured, he’s headed back to Omaha with nothing to lose.
“It definitely makes it easier now that the pressure’s off,” Paul said.
However, training hasn’t been any easier as he prepares for this moment. He says that Deichert has him working heavy on swimming the 100 freestyle with the goal of having his stamina at its peak for the 50 free, the fastest of the sprint events.
One poor stroke makes all the difference in such a short race.
“Swimming the 50 is an all-out sprint from start to finish,” Paul said. “Swimming the 100 freestyle in practice is draining.”
Paul’s achievement making the Olympic Trials is magnified by the fact that he is young. Really young.
All but two of competitors in the 50 freestyle are older than he is. The oldest in the race is 38. Only the top two finishers in the Trials move forward to the Olympics next month.
Deichert says that going through the entire drill just two weeks ago in the Swimvitational was a great dress rehearsal for what is in store with the Olympic Trials.
In front of big crowds, swimmers have to be ready to hit the deck and take to the line on cue. Then there’s the knowledge that cameras are pointed toward the pool to catch every bit of the action.
Powers is glad he is going to experience the Olympic Trials in 2012, hoping to be ready to make the 2016 Summer Games in Rio De Janeiro.
“Making the Olympic Trials makes me feel like I’m right on track for what I want to accomplish,” Paul said. “It’s kind of an early feeling of success.”
Decheirt says that part of Paul’s accelerated rate of achievement is due to a combination of his work ethic and physical strength. Powers played basketball last season at North Hall. Along with about 15 hours each week in the pool, Deichert works with Paul on different dry land training exercises.
At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Deichert says that Paul’s leg strength is incredible, squatting around 350 pounds.
“He’s got low body fat and is so strong,” Deichert said. “He’s built like a defensive end.”
In four years, Paul wants to swim the 50 and 100 freestyle, and 100 backstroke in the Olympic Trails. He also expects Ty to be right there with him in 2016.