TOWSON, Md. - Junior Towson University swimmer Melanie Rowland represented the Tiger swimming and diving program this week after qualifying for the United States Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, Nebraska. Rowland finished 65th overall in the 200-meter butterfly event held on Thursday and sat down with TowsonTigers.com to chronicle her experiences over the course of the week, beginning on Monday, June 25.
On Monday, Coach (Pat) Mead and I left at 5:30 a.m. to catch our flight to Olympic Trials. After a layover in Minneapolis, we landed in Omaha, Nebraska, and made our way to the CenturyLink Center. We went to team registration and got our credentials. My credential pass had my picture, name, club name (Towson University Swimming), and a list of zones I was permitted access to. I needed my credentials for everything from entering the swimming arena to passing through hallways in the warm-up/cool down area.
Security was very tight, because with over 15,000 spectators, numerous media personnel, and 1,500 athletes (including stars like Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and Natalie Coughlin), access to certain areas was in high demand.
After getting through security, I took a look around the athlete hospitality area. There was as much chocolate milk, smoothies, fruit, Cliff bars, Greek yogurt, and gold fish as you wanted. The medical area offered free massages, and the expansive and gorgeous warm-up pool made the experience overwhelming. I got changed into my practice suit (in one of the three women’s locker rooms) and did a short practice to get used to the pool.
We watched finals from an area reserved for athletes and coaches. Finals the first night was a stunning display of multimedia entertainment, advertisements, pyrotechnics, and, oh yeah, fast swimming. I saw one of the boys from my area in Chicago qualify for the Olympic team in the 400-meter freestyle event. What a way to start off the meet!
On Tuesday, we left the hotel at 8 a.m. to get in a morning practice. I swam around for about 45 minutes before sitting down to watch preliminaries. I was able to cheer for swimmers I knew while slowly wiping the stars from my eyes and starting to focus on the job I had to do later in the week.
I signed up for time trials the following day. Time trials are run separately from the meet itself and allows swimmers who only qualified in a few events to race other events while still on their taper. I signed up to swim the 200-butterfly, the same event I would be competing in on Thursday. I wanted to swim in the main competition pool, and I usually swim better in the finals of an event.
That night followed in much the same fashion, with a night swim and another spectacular finals session. I watched three girls I’d swum against in club meets back at home, including one former teammate, advance from the semifinals to the finals.
We arrived at the pool at 7:45 a.m. this morning, and I got in a short wake-up swim. We went back to the hotel and I shaved down in preparation for my time trial that afternoon. We travelled back to the pool and I warmed up and got my new racing suit on. I swam in my time trial and went a 2:17.22, which was my third fastest swim ever. More importantly, that swim allowed me to hone in on what I needed to change the following day in my race.
I met up with my dad who had driven from Chicago to watch me swim. We had lunch and then went back to the pool for a night swim. Coach Mead and I decided to skip finals that evening so I could get an early night in preparation for my race tomorrow.
I was flooded with “Good luck!” texts, tweets, and Facebook messages from my friends and family members. What a great way to end the day!
We got to the pool at 7:45 a.m. and I loosened up in the warm up pool before stretching and putting on my racing suit. I did some more warming up in the main competition pool. I did some pace work, and my times were exactly where I wanted them to be.
I sat down, took out my iPod, and turned on my “London Trials” playlist to get ready for my race. Fifteen minutes before my race, I went up to the Last Call area. An official checked my suit and cap to make sure it didn’t violate any logo or sponsor size restrictions. I waited in the Ready Room for about 10 minutes before it was my heat’s turn to go up to the blocks.
I was really excited for my race (as I had been all week), yet still calm and focused on what I needed to do thanks to my time trial the day before.
When I dove in, I saw the girl next to me take off, but stuck to my race plan of staying controlled and relaxed the first 50 meters. At the 100-meter mark, I made my move and caught the girl next to me and moved into first. The last 50 meters I fell off a little bit, but managed to place fifth out of 10 swimmers in my heat. My final time was 2:16.62. It was my second fastest time, and I was very happy with it.
Coach Mead showed me my splits, which showed that I swam it exactly the way we had planned until the 150-meter mark, where I fell off my pace. Because so many people had to rest to even make it to Olympic Trials, I was far from the only person who added time from their personal best. I was seeded 91st and moved up 26 places to finally place 65th.
Olympic Trials was a great experience and one I will never forget. It was such an incredible honor to represent Towson at such a prestigious meet. I hope to see more swimmers representing Towson at the 2016 Trials!