Several Gophers swimmers had a chance to compete at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
But after falling short at the U.S. Olympic trials a month ago, the Gophers had to settle for watching the Games on TV instead of traveling to London.
Now, more than a dozen are competing at the Aug. 7-11 U.S. Open Swimming Championships in Indianapolis.
“Clearly, any time you have a goal and you fall short of that goal, there’s disappointment that sets in, and you have to come to terms with that,” Gophers head swimming and diving coach Kelly Kremer said. “It was hard for them, challenging for them, I think, to reset a little bit because the Olympic trials is so important and so big.”
In a non-Olympic year, the Open would be considered the national meet. But with the Olympic trials and actual Games taking place, the competition and atmosphere will be watered down considerably.
The Gophers, however, aren’t treating the meet any differently, as the Open also functions as a qualifier for the 2013 World University Games. The top four collegiate competitors in the 100- and 200-meter freestyles and the top two in every other event will travel to Russia next summer.
Junior Kyler Van Swol barely missed the semifinals in the 200 butterfly and missed the final in the 100 butterfly by one place at the Olympic trials.
Van Swol said a breathing mistake is what dropped him from the 100 final, but he is ready to rebound at the Open.
“It’s just kind of like the next step for me,” Van Swol said. “If any of us make [the World University Games], it’s our first international type competition.”
Van Swol finished eighth in the 200 butterfly Tuesday.
For two Gophers swimmers, next summer’s World University Games wouldn’t be their first international foray.
Senior Haley Spencer and recent graduate Ashley Steenvoorden competed on the U.S. national team at the 2011 Pan American Games, where Spencer earned a silver medal in the 200 breaststroke.
Because the pair has national and international team experience, their failure to make the Olympic team was frustrating.
Spencer scratched into the semifinals of the 100 breaststroke and finished seventh in the 200 breaststroke.
“It’s definitely extremely hard to refocus after a meet like the Olympic trials,” Spencer said. “I don’t know if a lot of people realize that when you get fully tapered, when you’re done your body just like shuts down.”
But having the goal of making the World University Games helped motivate Spencer, she said.
At the trials, Steenvoorden didn’t make a final in the 400 or 800 freestyles and dropped out of the 200. She said the World University Games were her fallback plan after not making the Olympic team.
“It’s nice to have another international meet to look forward to and get ready for,” Steenvoorden said.
Steenvoorden finished second in the 800 freestyle Tuesday, qualifying for the World University Games. She also finished fourth in the 4x100 freestyle relay with teammates Kiera Janzen, Erin Caflisch and Tess Behrens.
Sophomore CJ Smith finished just outside of the final for the 1,500 freestyle at the Olympic trials. He said that even without big-name or Olympian competition, he approaches the Open the same way.
“You try not to look at it any differently because no matter what, there’s still always going to be a good race,” Smith said. “There’s still always guys that are either right in front of you or right on your tail.”
Smith finished fifth in the 1,500 freestyle Tuesday.
Minnesota is also sending Emma Jackson, Annalise Colton, Lauren Greenberg, Jared Anderson and Derek Toomey, and it will field several relays.
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