At a glance ...
MCHS graduate Kelsey Conci’s results from the Olympic Trials June 25-July 1 in Omaha, Neb.:
100-meter backstroke preliminary
Time: 1:01.65 Place: 14
100-meter backstroke semifinal
Time: 1:01.16 Place: 11
50-meter freestyle preliminary
Time: 26.43 Place: 86
“I’ve seen some Olympians at the NCAA (Championships). But there are definitely a lot more here, and ones who have been there and been great before. I’ve run into Amanda Beard a couple times, which is pretty crazy.”
—Kelsey Conci, 2008 MCHS graduate and University of Wyoming swimmer, about running into some of America’s greatest swimmers at the Olympic Trials.
For Kelsey Conci, just being a participant at the Olympic Trials was enough.
Swimming as well as she did made the stay even sweeter.
The 2008 graduate from Moffat County High School and University of Wyoming standout swimmer swam in two events at the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha, Neb. The trials began June 25 and conclude this evening.
Conci, who swam at MCHS and as a member of the Craig Sea Sharks, qualified for the semifinals in the 100-meter backstroke and swam in the preliminaries of the 50-meter freestyle. She said despite not placing as high as she’s used to in her races, the entire experience was a great one.
“It’s pretty humbling I would say. The competition is definitely higher than anything I’ve ever swam at,” Conci said. “It’s as big as the swimming world gets, and its definitely cool seeing every seat filled in this huge arena that seats I don’t know how many people. And everybody is there for the same reason: swimming.”
In order to get to the trials, swimmers must swim a certain qualifying time for each event at a meet sanctioned by the USA Swimming. Then at the trials all qualifiers swim in preliminary heats, followed by the top 16 times advancing to two semifinal heats, which are whittled down to one, eight-person final heat.
The top two swimmers in each final event make the U.S. Olympic team.
Conci did not have any expectations of going to London as an Olympic swimmer. She first qualified in the 50-meter freestyle in August 2010 by swimming a time two-hundredths of a second below the trials standard.
Conci said she understood she wasn’t going to make noise in Omaha with a time like that, but she knew immediately that she wanted to attend the event anyway.
A year later, at the Summer Nationals at Stanford University, she qualified in the 100-meter backstroke.
“I definitely knew I was going to go,” she said. “Even when I had just qualified in the 50-free, which is not my better event, I knew I was going.”
At the trials, Conci did not expect to win, but she did set goals. In the backstroke, she surpassed her goal of making the top 16.
Conci made the top 16 out of the preliminaries and got to swim again at night in front of the big crowd. In the semis, which took place June 26, she placed fifth in her heat and 11th overall in a time of 1:01.16, missing the finals by .4 seconds.
She wasn’t disappointed though.
“Making top eight would have just been icing on the cake,” Conci said. “I came in thinking whatever happens, happens. Just enjoy it and live in the moment.”
Conci made sure to enjoy her time in Omaha. After her preliminary race in the backstroke, she congratulated and exchanged words with two-time gold medalist and former American record-holder Natalie Coughlin out of the pool. She also said she sat and stretched next to male gold-medalist Jason Lezak one morning.
“I’ve seen some Olympians at the NCAA (Championships),” Conci said. “But there are definitely a lot more here, and ones who have been there and been great before. I’ve run into Amanda Beard a couple times, which is pretty crazy.”
After placing 86th in the 50-meter freestyle preliminaries Sunday morning, Conci’s Olympic trials run came to an end. The social sciences major, who is done swimming at Wyoming but will return for a fifth year of studies in the fall, said she’s not sure if she will try to make a run at the 2016 trials.
“I have considered it. I have a chance to make the World University Games, which you have to be in college to qualify for,” Conci said. “I would swim in August to qualify for that, and it’s in the back of my mind.”
If swimming is not what Conci keeps doing, she said she’s given though to joining the Peace Corps or going to graduate school after next year.
Whatever the outcome, Conci had an unforgettable experience in Omaha.
“That’s definitely going to be the biggest thing I’ve ever competed at. The past four years of college I kept getting better and going to bigger meets,” she said. “This was bigger and more competitive than those.”
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