The University of South Carolina is sending nine swimmers and assistant coach Kevin Swander to Omaha, Neb., to compete in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials next week.
Student-athletes Jack Smith, Emma Barksdale, Cody Bekemeyer, Jeremiah Bohon, Jonathan Boland, Kersten Dirrane, Paige Maynard, Meredith Vay and Taylor Worrell will join Swander at the trials June 26-July 3.
Dirrane, a sophomore, didn’t know she would be competing in the trials until she qualified in May at the Arena Pro Swim Series at Charlotte. She will be swimming the Women’s 100 and 200 breaststroke preliminaries on Monday.
"If you had told me when I was 13-years old, I would have thought you were crazy,” Dirrane said. “It's been a pretty recent, realistic goal for me, but I think as this summer started it has become more and more realistic as the summer goes on.”
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Worrell, a sophomore, also qualified for the trials at the Arena Pro Swim Series at Charlotte. She will be swimming in the Women’s 400 free race and will be competing alongside her older sister, Kelsi Worrell.
“She went in 2012 and she'll be there again at the end of the month,” Worrell said of her of sister, a senior at Louisville. “It'll be really cool to experience that with her.”
Worrell is no stranger to competing with her sister and has become close friends with many members of the Louisville team.
“I got to go to NCAAs with my sister and it was awesome,” Worrell said. “I've been around her teammates a lot and she has amazing teammates just like our teammates here. Being kind of a part of two teams essentially, having that support is probably the best part."
While Dirrane and Worrell both recently qualified for the trials, freshman Cody Bekemeyer has been preparing for the event since his junior year of high school. Bekemeyer will be swimming in the 400 IM, 400 free and 1500 free races. He said training with associate head coach Mark Bernardino has made him feel prepared for the trials.
“We have Mark Bernardino, who is a great coach,” Bekemeyer said. “He's just awesome, so he knows how to make you faster and how you're able to tackle races faster, make you mentally tough and physically tough."
Although the USC swimmers qualified at different meets and will compete in different events at the trials, they are all looking forward to the experience.
“I think aside from making the actual Olympic team, almost every swimmer has the goal of making Olympic Trials,” Dirrane said. “That's kind of like the overarching end all be all of swimming. I can say ever since I've been swimming it's been a goal to make Olympic Trials."