Utah Athletes at the 2016 Olympic Swimming Trials

By Cristian Corbett, Radio From Hell Intern

Swimmers around the country are training and prepping for one of the largest meets of their careers: the Olympic Trials. Among those swimmers is a group that train at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

BYU will be sending seven swimmers to represent the school and the state of Utah next week at the 2016 Olympic Swimming Trials.

The group is coached by Brigham Young University’s head swimming coach John Brooks, who is currently in his 8th season with the team, and his 4th season as head coach.

Among the swimmers to qualify is freshman Ellie Thornbrue. A native of Hillsboro, Oregon, Thornbrue has been swimming for nine years. As a freshman at Century High School in Oregon, Thornbrue was state champion in the 100 fly, as well as state champion in the 500 her junior and senior years, and was the 200 free state champion all four years of her high school career. She has qualified for the 100 butterfly for this year’s trials.

“College swimming is different than high school because it’s more of a team sport in college. In high school and club you would typically swim to get a best time, etc., which would usually be for yourself,” Ellie said. “In college, scoring points is more focused on, and being a team is definitely an important aspect of college swimming.”

BYU is also sending a sprint duo to trials, Arizona natives Connor Stirling and Payton Sorenson.

BYU Swimmers Connor Stirling and Payton Sorenson Photo Courtesy: Cristian Corbett

BYU Swimmers Connor Stirling and Payton Sorenson
Photo Courtesy: Cristian Corbett

Finishing up his freshman year, Stirling hails from Cave Creek, Arizona. In high school he was state champion in the 200 free, and at BYU was named First-Team All-MPSF in the 800 free relay, 200 free relay and 400 free relay.

“I’m just living the dream, man,” Connor said. “Trials was always a goal for me, and I’m really excited to go.”

Stirling will have a busy next couple of weeks as he will be leaving on a mission for the LDS Church to Puebla North, Mexico on July 5, just two days after Trials conclude.

Payton Sorenson is from Mesa, Arizona and is finishing up is sophomore year at BYU. Sorenson was state champion in the 50 free his junior year, and was state champion in the 100 free both junior and senior years while attending Mountain View High School.

At BYU, he was ranked second on the team in the 50 and 100 free, as well as the 100 back his freshman year.

Both Arizona boys have qualified for the 50 and 100 meter freestyles at Omaha. Sorensen is ranked 37th in the 50 freestyle and 50th in the 100 freestyle. Stirling is ranked 101st in the 50 freestyle.

Perhaps BYU’s best hope at making Team USA is Utah’s own Jake Taylor. Taylor just finished his senior year at BYU and has great potential leading up to this year’s Trials.

Taylor is from Honeyville, Utah, and attended Mountain Crest High School. While there, he accomplished many things, including setting every school record, six region records and four state records. Taylor ended his high school career a 4-time region champion, 7-time state champion, 2-time Utah Swimmer of the Year and 14-time All-American.

While at BYU, Taylor didn’t stop progressing, as he was nationally ranked in the 100 backstroke, 200 IM and 200 backstroke his freshman year.

After his freshman year, Taylor served a mission to El Salvador and Belize for two years.

“Serving my mission was great,” Taylor said. “But I wasn’t allowed to swim, so to stay in shape I did push ups and crunches everyday. Getting back into shape after was tough, and it took me almost a year to get back into swimming shape.”

In Taylor’s most recent meet in Arizona, he swam against Olympic Gold Medalist Matt Grevers in the 100 meter freestyle.

Jake Taylor at the 2016 NCAA Division 1 Men's Swimming and Diving Championships Photo Courtesy: Regan Lunn/Georgia Tech Athletics

Jake Taylor at the 2016 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships
Photo Courtesy: Regan Lunn/Georgia Tech Athletics

“I raced him in the 100 free, but I think he beat me by just a little bit. I did time trial the 100 back, and I would’ve beaten his prelims time at that meet.”

Taylor plans to retire from swimming after Trials and settle down with his wife, Amanda, but the possibility of making Team USA or getting picked up by a major club team might be enough to change his mind.

Taylor will be competing in the 100 and 200 meter backstrokes in Omaha. He is ranked 11th in the 100 meter backstroke and 29

th in the 200 backstroke.

“BYU is one of only two college swimming programs in the state of Utah, so to have this many of our swimmers qualify for the Trials meet is amazing. It reflects an amazing program and an amazing university,” Coach Brooks said. “Four years ago, we had only three swimmers go, and eight years ago we only had one. To jump up to seven this year just shows how good of a program we are building here at BYU.”

Other swimmers that Brigham Young University will be sending are Hayden Palmer, Stephen Richards and Preston Jenkins.

For the past 3 Olympic Games, the swimming trials have been held in Omaha, Nebraska. The meet is infamous for its’ theatrical fire shows before the finals begin. In order to qualify for the Olympic Trials, swimmers must meet a time standard that has been configured by USA Swimming, the governing body of the sport in the US. The times must be met at meets sanctioned by USA Swimming as well.

University of Utah alum Nick Soedel is ranked 37th and 27th in the 100 and 50 meter freestyles Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

University of Utah alum Nick Soedel is ranked 37th and 27th in the 100 and 50 meter freestyles
Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

At the Trials, preliminaries will be held in the morning. The top 16 swimmers will then move on to semi-finals and then the top 8 will make finals. The top 2 in each event will make the Olympic Team, and 3rd through 6th in the 100 freestyle will be chosen for the relay.

Swimmers from all over the United States will be competing for spots and big time athletes  such as Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin will be making a big splash. The Omaha Trials are regarded as the most exciting event in the sport of swimming, topping the NCAA Division 1 Swimming Championships.

The state of Utah will also be sending Rhyan White, representing the Wasatch Front Fish Market, Justin McArthur, Christopher Taber, Nick Soedel, Gillian St. John and Jordan Anderson, representing Swim Utah.

The Olympic Trials will run from Sunday, June 26th to Sunday, July 3rd at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska. NBC will be broadcasting the finals heats, and you can catch them at 6:00PM.

Coverage of the meet can be found at Swimming World, or you can follow Cristian Corbett on Twitter, who will be on-location and live tweeting finals.

Reprinted with permission of Swimming World Magazine. The original version of this story can be found on Swimming World Magazine’s website. 

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