• Results: U.S. Swim Trials (mobile)
• Photo Showcase: U.S. Swim Trials, July 1
* * *
One of the most cherished privileges of earning an Olympic bid is the opportunity for athletes to represent their country on the largest stage.
Among the nearly 1,800 competitors who suited up the past seven days at the U.S. Swim Trials, 16 have experienced that appreciation for their country in a different theater.
The U.S. Naval Academy quadrupled its number of Trials qualifiers from the 2008 event after a concerted effort by Navy coaches and athletic department officials to create a more competitive swimming squad.
“We have a lot of young men and women who want the same things as the coaching staff does,” Navy men’s assistant coach Chris Maiello said. “That’s to continue to improve and reach higher goals.”
The final group of Midshipmen swimmers competed Sunday. After spending years training together, Justin Vagts and Riley Mita were assigned to the same heat of the 1,500-meter freestyle.
Though Vagts was in lane 3 and Mita in lane 9, their times were only 0.18 seconds apart. Vagts was 38th in 15:47.32 and Mita 39th in 15:47.50.
In addition to the 16 who either are in the midst of or have finished their days in Annapolis, four incoming freshmen competed this week. One of those — Thomas Duvall of suburban Denver — finished 36th in the 1,500 in 15:44.08.
Midshipmen have responsibilities during the summer, though classes don’t resume until the fall. Juggling preparations for the U.S. Trials and their other duties is something the swimmers have handled well, Maiello said.
“They do a good job of setting priorities and managing time to get ready for a meet like this,” Maiello said. “They’ve arranged their schedules so they can get the most balanced training while doing their military training.”
There’s no break for any of the current 14 Midshipmen, one recent graduate and one alum. After their swims in Omaha, it was back to duty or training.
“Our alum just finished flight school,” Maiello said. “He took vacation to come here and compete.”
Navy’s highest finisher of the meet was recent graduate Mark Meyer, who finished 22nd in the 200 butterfly. Mita also had a top 30 finish when he ended up 27th in the 400 freestyle.
Maiello said whether they medal or don’t swim a personal best, the way these Navy men and women have prepared themselves for the U.S. Trials, with all of their other responsibilities as Midshipmen, should show all Americans that they have what it takes to represent the United States.
“For them to have volunteered to serve our country and to rise to this level is incredible,” Maiello said. “Some people may have their own opinions about the military, but in the end, we’re building strong leaders and I’m proud to coach them.”
Contact the writer: