By Sharon Robb
June 3, 2016—Four years ago, Kile Aukerman was a freshman at Wright State University sitting in the CenturyLink Center stands during the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb.
“I just remember thinking “wow, these guys are really good.’ I didn’t think I would ever get to that level,” Aukerman said.
The 23-year-old South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer will return to Omaha in three weeks, this time to compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials.
On Friday at the Tennessee Aquatics June Invitational, Aukerman swam back-to-back lifetime bests in the 200-meter breaststroke and earned his first Olympic Trials cut.
In morning prelims, Aukerman went 2:18.08. In finals, he bettered his time in 2:17.96 and finished fourth. His previous best was 2:18.95. The qualifying cut time is 2:18.39.
“I am excited and relieved at the same time,” Aukerman said. “If it gets any better than this, I will let you know.”
Aukerman was a gamut of emotions before morning prelims.
“I was feeling pretty good in practice before the meet. I wasn’t overly nervous,” Aukerman said. “When I was warming up this morning I really had to make sure I calmed myself down. A lot of times my nerves get the best of me. But I knew that I was feeling good and I had the training behind me.
“Tonight, I was fairly relaxed. All I wanted was the cut and I got it in the morning. It was off my shoulders. You can’t take that away from me. I thought if I went 2:19, 2:20, that’s fine or if I did better tonight, than awesome and I did.”
After graduating college, Aukerman decided to put his career on hold to train seriously for nearly two years at SOFLO.
“I got some scholarship money and started swimming to get a good education in college,” Aukerman said. “As the years went on I started improving and had a good senior year. I thought maybe with long course training under my belt I could get better and get the cut since I was pretty close. I totally committed myself to going after it.
“I got my degree and everything and I will be looking for a job after this year. My parents are very supportive of me in swimming and my Dad was an athlete in college so he understands.
“I have the rest of my life to go to school and work. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. They knew I was going for it. My parents have come to all my meets and my Dad was really excited when he found out I was swimming a meet in Bermuda.”
Aukerman is excited to return to Omaha and finish his swimming career at the Trials as an elite athlete and not just a spectator.
“I want to better my time at Trials,” he said. “My goal in my mind these last two years has been that I wanted my last meet to be the Olympic Trials. I want to go best times there. If I do that I will be 100 percent fine to say goodbye to swimming. It’s the best possible way to go out swimming at one of the best meets in the world.”
On Saturday, Aukerman will try and get his second Olympic Trials cut in the 100-meter breaststroke. The cut is 1:03.69 is the cut time and Aukerman is close at 1:03.75.
SOFLO teammate Jorge Murillo Valdes, 24, of Colombia, already qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics, was the fastest qualifier in the 100-meter breaststroke in 2:17.16, off his seed time of 2:14.81, and went on to win the event in 2:15.99.
Aukerman will join SOFLO teammates Kathleen Golding, Megan Romano and Claire Donahue at the June 26-July 3 U.S. Olympic Trials.
“It’s great training down here,” Aukerman said. “I had some good training at the university but not with anyone world-class like these Olympians. It’s great to have someone there push you. It’s been a really good fit.”
In other SOFLO swims:
U.S. Olympic hopeful Megan Romano, 25, was a double winner capturing the 100-meter freestyle in 55.86 and outsprinted Olympian Elizabeth Beisel to win the 100-meter backstroke, 1:02.00-1:02.25.
Romano earned the top seed in the 100-meter freestyle in 56.02, off her seed time of 54.79. Romano was also the fastest qualifier in the 100-meter backstroke in 1:03.01, off her seed time of 1:01.94.
SOFLO had two other swimmers make the “A” final in the 100-meter freestyle. Alia Atkinson, 27, was third fastest in 56.93, off her seed time of 56.06 and finished second in 56.08. Claire Donahue, 27, was the sixth fastest in a best time 57.88, bettering her 1:00.88 seed time and placed seventh in 58.24.
SOFLO’s Alina Schulhofer, 21, was 18th in 59.82, off her 58.16 seed time.
Ryan Capote, 18, was 35th in the 100-meter freestyle in 55.74, off his seed time of 54.08. Alejandro Zambrano, 21, was 43rd in a best time 56.57, improving his seed time of 57.10. Luke Lezotte, 15, was 53rd in a best time 58.56, bettering his 1:05.35 seed time.
Also in the 200-meter breaststroke, Santiago Rivera, 19, was 17th in 2:36.07, just off his seed time of 2:36.06.
In the 100-meter backstroke, Atkinson qualified for the “B” final, placing 13th in 1:06.77, off her 1:04.04 seed time and finished 14th in the final in 1:06.54. Catalina Mendieta, 26, placed 17th in 1:07.36, off his seed time of 1:06.97.
In the men’s 100-meter backstroke, Ryan Capote and Esteban Diaz-Velasco just missed the “C” final. Capote, 18, was 27th in 1:04.81, off his 1:02.33 seed time and Diaz-Velasco, 17, was 28th in 1:04.82, off his 1:02.30 seed time.
Diaz-Velasco was 26th in the 400-meter freestyle in a best time 4:17.96, bettering his previous best of 4:22.81 and finishing as an alternate for the “C” final. Rivera also swam a best time of 4:23.33, dropping from 4:31.09 in the distance event.
The three-day meet continues Saturday at the University of Tennessee’s Allan Jones Aquatic Center in Knoxville. The meet features both elite and age group swimmers.
Prelims are 8:30 a.m. and finals 6 p.m. on Saturday and 5 p.m. on Sunday.
1. Megan Romano, SOFLO 55.86, 2. Alia Atkinson, SOFLO 56.08, 3. Natalie Hinds, COM 56.68; SOFLO: 7. Claire Donahue 58.24, 18. Alina Schulhofer 59.82.
1. Molly Hannis, TNAQ 2:27.31, 2. Kersten Dirrane, GAE 2:34.47, 3. Jenny Wilson, GSC 2:34.93; SOFLO: 18. Monica Alvarez 2:48.32.
1. Megan Romano, SOFLO 1:02, 2. Elizabeth Beisel, ABF 1:02.25, 3. Micah Bohon, Unattached 1:03.29; SOFLO: 14. Alia Atkinson 1:06.54, 17. Catalina Mendieta 1:07.36.
1. Elizabeth Beisel, ABF 4:10.87, 2. Ashley Neidigh, AU 4:18.24, 3. Erica Laning, TNAQ 4:18.82.
1. Caeleb Dressel, Bolles 48.74, 2. Andrew Marsh, CM 50.25, 3. Roland Schoeman, PSC 51.03.
1. Jorge Murillo Valdes, SOFLO 2:15.99, 2. Brad Craig, TNAQ 2:15.70, 3. Bryar Long, TNAQ 2:17.85; SOFLO: 4. Kile Aukerman 2:17.96, best time, Trials cut.
1. Christopher Reid, BAMA 54.99, 2. Luke Kaliszak, BAMA 55.47, 3. Sean Lehane, Unattached 55.61.
1. True Sweetser, GSC 3:54.44, 2. Trey Freeman, BAY 3:57.92, 3. David Heron, Unattached 3:58.66.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com