The countdown to the 2016 Olympic Trials has begun for junior swimmer Rachel Waite.
“After I made the cuts, it was more just focusing on my college season and getting through our big meet, our Horizon League Championship,” Waite said. “And now after that’s done, they gave us a week off because it is a long time to go training without any break.”
But the training schedule is returning to normal, with weightlifting and water.
Waite was ecstatic to be invited to the Olympic Trials. She remained humble about her achievement, describing the fantasy-like nature of making it so far.
“It’s one of those things where in high school everyone was always saying ‘Oh, you could make it,’ and I was joking ‘No I can’t,’ and that’s crazy,” Waite said. “To think all of those elite-level athletes, to even be in the same meet as them is crazy.”
She has put herself on the same playing field with those elites as she prepares for the late-June qualifiers.
“It’s exciting even to think about how many different athletes there are in America and how few people make it to Trials,” Waite said. “And I’m one of the people that did get the times.”
There was not a defining moment for Waite during her swimming career, but more of a realization that one of the highest achievements in sports was attainable for her.
“We could tell early on that if she committed to training year round and at a higher level, she had the talent to swim at a high level,” head coach Pete Hovland wrote in an email.
Waite’s qualification means something for Oakland swim and dive.
“Any time you have an NCAA or Olympic Trial qualifier, it’s immeasurable to your program in a number of ways,” Hovland wrote. “It validates to everyone in the program that hard work, dedication, and sacrifice can provide you with some wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime-type opportunities and experiences. It also validates and elevates the stature of our program.”
Waite will swim the 100m and 200m breaststroke and will have to learn a new competition configuration. The Olympics uses long course meters instead of short course yards.
The fantasy of the Olympic Trials has yet to set in for Waite.
“It’s still something that I have to wrap my brain around. After I qualified it was like I had to change my focus back to Horizon League Championships,” Waite said. “I got those goals and now it’s back on [to trials].”
Waite prioritizes her class time and makes up for missed practices.
“There’s a group of us who always have to make up practice, so normally I have someone to make it up with,” Waite said. “It’s one of those things where other people get jobs. This is my job.”
She said that not working a regular job has assisted her in being able to keep a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
“I love them both, though, and it’s my life,” Waite said of swimming and nursing school. “I couldn’t imagine my life without either of them.”
The Olympic Trials run from June 26 to July 3 in Omaha, Nebraska. Freshman Devon Nowicki will be there in the men’s 100 breaststroke.