When she climbs the starting block Thursday morning at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., College of William and Mary junior Katie Radloff won’t be shaking.
“I won’t be nervous,” Radloff, a two-time Colonial Athletic Association swimmer of the year, said. “I’m excited for the experience.”
Radloff will swim the 50 and 100 meter freestyles at the trials, where she’ll join Olympic gold medalists Natalie Coughlin, Amanda Beard and Michael Phelps.
“I can’t wait to watch all the big names,” Radloff said.
In two short years Radloff has become a big name in W&M swimming history. She’s the school’s first-ever female swimmer to qualify for the trials and she holds three individual records at W&M in the 50, 100 and 200 meter free events.
“I’m not expecting to do anything huge,” Radloff said. “I’m kind of doing it for the experience for now.”
With over a hundred qualifiers in each event, Radloff has realistic expectations for her first trials experience.
She’s seeded 81st in the 100 meter free, with a time of 56.92 seconds. Natalie Coughlin is first, with a 53.39. In the 50, Radloff posted a 26.29, good enough for 73rd seed. Forty-one-year-old Dara Torres has the top 50 qualifying time of 24.53.
“It’s so unlikely to make the team,” Radloff said. “You have to be top two out of one hundred people.”
She’s still training hard in preparation, continuing a process that began last fall when her college season began.
“It’s been kind of hard because everyone around me has gotten big breaks and I haven’t been able to take them,” Radloff said. “So I’ve just been plugging away. “It has been a very long year.”
But ending the year at the trials makes things more bearable for Radloff. The excitement pours out of her when she talks about the trials and her competitive nature shines through, too.
“I think a lot of people that are going to be competing are going to be nervous,” Radloff said. “I feel like you kind of have an edge if you’re not nervous because it could throw you off.”
She swam at the site of the trials – the Qwest Center – three weeks ago and quickly grabbed her phone to show a picture of the place. Picture an Olympic-sized pool in the middle of a basketball arena and that’s what it looks like. It has a giant scoreboard with video screens, too.
“It’s crazy,” Radloff said. “It’s really fast.”
Her trials experience begins Sunday when she heads west to Omaha. She’ll have a few days to watch races and continue tapering before her first race, the 100, Thursday morning. Two days later Radloff will compete in the 50 free. If she advances to the next round of either event, she’ll swim again that same event later in the day.
As for a return trip to trials in 2012, Radloff is uncertain.
“My coach is pushing me to try to do that, but I don’t know yet,” Radloff said. “I’m still thinking about that. It’s a possibility. I think I’ll be better then.”