And while earning a trip to the London Olympics may be too tall an order for the eight-day meet against the nation’s best — including Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Natalie Coughlin— qualifying in itself is both a thrill and an important opportunity.
A pair of rising Lassiter seniors — Jimmy Yoder and Zach Bunner — will join graduated Trojans Sammie Bosma, Shannon O’Malley, Brian Lundquist and Sarah Losinger at the trials.
In all, six current Cobb high schoolers and 13 graduates now at Division I swimming programs will participate in the trials, including six swimmers who compete at Georgia.
“We’ve probably known each other since I was around 11,” Yoder said of Bunner. “We’ve been competing and growing more as friends since we became teammates in high school.”
Yoder, one of nine swimmers representing the Stingrays swim club, holds five school records and will be competing in the 400-meter freestyle, 1,500 freestyle and 200 butterfly at the trials. Bunner, who swims for Chattahoochee Gold, will be competing in the 100 backstroke after beating the Olympic Trials standard time by fewer than 0.3 seconds at March’s Senior Sectional meet in Greensboro, N.C.
“Going into that meet, my goal was to make the Olympic Trials cut.” Bunner said. “I can’t tell you the amount of relief I had when I looked up at the board.”
A pair of sisters at Kennesaw Mountain will join their Stingrays teammate, Yoder, at the trials.
Melissa and Rebecca Postoll both broke through to hit qualifying times in Greensboro. Rebecca, a rising sophomore, will be swimming the 100 and 200 freestyles, while Melissa, a rising senior, will compete in the 200 backstroke.
“It would definitely be an extremely different experience if she wasn’t going to be there with me,” Melissa Postoll said of her sister.
Recent Harrison graduate Madison Jacobi, who will swim for Florida State next year, met the Olympic Trials standards for the 400 freestyle, 800 freestyle and 200 backstroke in March at the Junior National swim meet in Orlando, Fla. Jacobi holds seven Harrison records, but the mystique of those marks may pale in comparison to the accomplishments of who she’ll be racing in her preliminary heat — five-time Olympic medalist and former world record-holder Janet Evans.
The 40-year-old Evans, a five-time Olympic medalist, is attempting to make the Olympics for the fourth time — but just the first since the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
“Knowing I get to actually race against someone I’ve idolized growing up is really cool,” Jacobi said. “I’m not at the same level as some of the best swimmers in the world, but knowing I’m at a level where I can share the same pool with them is pretty exciting.”
Rising Allatoona junior Aja Malone, representing Swim Atlanta, qualified for the 100 butterfly with a time of 1 minute, 2.72 seconds, less than .02 seconds faster than the cut time.
Against many older and more experienced swimmers in Omaha, the primary goal for many of these first-time representatives will be to surpass their personal best times. Still, the swimmers will have plenty of opportunities to appreciate the significance of simply making it, and Bunner is just as excited about the idea of being a spectator at the trials as he is about participating.
He will be especially tuned into the rivalry between Phelps and Lochte — between them, owner of 22 Olympic medals.
“If you watched the (2011 world championships) at Shanghai, they had pulled away from everyone else,” Bunner said. “They’re saying it’s going to be even faster than (the 2008 Olympics in) Beijing. There could be some world records broken.”
The U.S. trials will continue through July 2, with preliminaries aired on NBC Sports Network and finals on NBC.