GBS alumna, NCAA Champ, prepares for 2016 Olympic Trials

Samantha Casey and

The 2016 Swimming Olympic Team Trials will be held on June 26 through July 3. This year’s Trials will be GBS alumna Olivia Smoliga’s second appearance at the meet. Smoliga graduated from GBS in 2013 and is currently swimming at the University of Georgia. It will also be GBS junior Sam Iida’s first appearance at the Trials.

Smoliga qualified for the Trials in the 100 and 50 meter freestyle and the 100 meter backstroke in 2012 and 2016. Smoliga placed fourth in the 100 meter backstroke in 2012. In order to qualify for the Olympics in an individual event, Smoliga needs to place in the top two, and to be part of a relay, she needs to place in the top six in her 100 meter freestyle. According to Smoliga, she does not want to say how she is going to do at the Trials because she does not want to jinx herself.

“I think my 100 meter freestyle has been getting a lot stronger, so I am hoping to do a lot better in that [event than I did in 2012],” Smoliga said. “I would like to make it into the final for the 100 meter freestyle.”

Smoliga is excited for the Trials especially after her success at NCAA championships. Smoliga won the 50 yard freestyle with a time of 21.21 seconds. Her  time broke the NCAA record, and is the second fastest 50 yard freestyle in women’s history. Smoliga also won the 100 yard freestyle with a time of 46.70 seconds.

“I am really happy [with my performance at the NCAA Championships],” Smoliga said. “I had a pretty rough year my sophomore year, so it was really great to come back and perform how I wanted to and to get back on the right track.”

Smoliga was also part of the second place 200 yard freestyle relay and the third place 400 yard freestyle relay. Smoliga’s team, the Georgia Bulldogs, won the NCAA title with 414 points beating out second place Stanford (395) and third place Cal Berkeley (358).

“The last day of the Championships we were really tight on points and it was basically a fight for first [place] between Georgia, Cal and Stanford,” Smoliga said. “[The 100 yard freestyle was on the last day, and] I was swimming next to Lia Neal from Stanford, and that [event] was going to be a 10 to 15 point swing either way. When you go to the NCAA [Championships], it is completely team orientated, and you want to win the National Championship for your team, and by that third day I just wanted to fight so hard, win and do the best I could.”

Smoliga has been preparing for the Trials by switching from short course yards training to long course meter training. According to Smoliga, the biggest change is the mental difference from a team orientated college season to an individual orientated meet.

“Coming to college totally changes your outlook on the entire sport becuase you want to have your teammates do better than how you are doing, so it makes the team standing better,”  Smoliga said. “It is so cool because I train with these girls every single day and to see us drop times and win events, there is nothing like it. I definitely love the team aspect, and I think that is going to be really hard at Trials to be as excited as I was at NCAAs.”

In addition to Smoliga, Iida has qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 200 and 400 individual medley. Both Smoliga and Iida swim for the Glenview Titan Aquatic Club. According to Iida, he is seeded in the top 50 for the 400 meter individual medley and top 30 for the 200 meter individual medley.

“[After I qualified], it was really nice just sitting there thinking that I am going to be swimming at U.S. Olympic Trials and that the U.S. is the fastest swimming country in the world,” Iida said.

According to Iida, the 2016 Trials are more for experience as he hopes to make the Olympics in either 2020 or 2024. Iida hopes to drop time in his events and to place top 10 in the country for his 400 meter individual medley and top five for his 200 meter individual medley.

“[They are] pretty lofty goals, but I am working hard right now so [they] will come [true],” Iida said.