By Sharon Robb
June 24, 2016—It’s show time on the big stage for three South Florida Aquatic Club swimmers.
Claire Donahue, Kile Aukerman and Kathleen Golding will compete in the June 26-July 3 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, Neb.
Making the Trials is a huge accomplishment in itself. Now they will chase the brass ring trying to make the Aug. 5-21 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
All three have opening races on Sunday: Donahue in her signature event, the 100-meter butterfly, Golding in the 400-meter individual medley and Aukerman in the 100-meter breaststroke.
The talented trio coached by veteran SOFLO head coach Chris Anderson will share the same deck with the sport’s Big Four: Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin for eight days to determine the U.S. men and women’s Olympic teams.
The top two in each final will qualify for Rio, plus up to six finishers in the 100- and 200-meter freestyle events for relays. The top six in each event also make the senior national team.
Nearly 2,000 swimmers have qualified for the Trials with the most coming from California, Pacific Coast, North Carolina and Florida. The event at CenturyLink Center is a sell out for the first time with more than 200,000 tickets sold.
Donahue, 27, a 2012 Olympian, is making her third U.S. Olympic Trials appearance and coming off a solid year of training. Donahue won a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics as a member of the winning 400-meter medley relay team.
Donahue is seeded fifth in the 100-meter butterfly in 58.03.
“Not just the training aspect but outside factors,” Donahue said. “Recovery. Doing things like yoga. Making sure my diet’s right on. Making sure every aspect of my life is surrounded by swimming, helping me perform and helping me grow in the sport.”
Golding is the only high school swimmer from a South Florida public high school to qualify. At 15, she is also one of the youngest.
Training alongside Olympians and national-caliber swimmers at South Florida Aquatic Club in Pembroke Pines including four-time Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson, a Flanagan alum, has helped her improve.
Golding qualified in the 200-meter individual medley (2:18.67) and 400-meter individual medley (4:53.68), two of the sport’s toughest events.
“It definitely helps to watch the older girls and learn from them,” she said. “They are really good.”
Golding is realistic about her expectations for the Trials.
“I am going there for the experience,” Golding said. “I want to see what it’s like and I want to see how I stack up.
“I have been really focused lately, making sure everything I do in practice counts towards trials. My coach and I are pretty confident going into. I have been swimming pretty well.”
Golding would love to advance into the semifinals in one of her events. Despite her age, she is experienced when it comes to competing at big meets.
“I have been to meets with Missy and Michael,” Golding said. “There’s going to be a lot of fast people. I have been training really hard and doing a lot more dryland work. I think I should swim best times. I know after Trials I am going to be really motivated because it’s such a motivating meet. It makes me want to go to the Olympics even more and really enforces how much I want to be better.”
Aukerman is going in with three Trials cuts and lifetime-bests in the 100-meter breaststroke (1:03.38), 200-meter breaststroke (2:17.96) and 200-meter individual medley (2:04.35). All three times he swam at the Tennessee Aquatics Invitational earlier this month.
The 23-year-old Wright State alum is thrilled to be there. 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,” 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.
“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. You have the rest of your life to go to school and work. The Trials are once in a lifetime.”
Aukerman is also realistic about the Trials.
“I want to better my time at Trials,” he said. “My goal in my mind these last two years has been 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.”
SOFLO SWIMMERS TRIALS SCHEDULE
Aukerman: Sunday, 100-meter breaststroke, Wednesday, 200-meter breaststroke, Thursday, 200-meter individual medley
Donahue: Sunday, 100-meter butterfly, Wednesday, 200-meter butterfly
Golding: Sunday, 400-meter individual medley, Tuesday, 200-meter individual medley.
The Trials will be shown exclusively across NBC networks and mobile platforms. Prelims will be live daily at 11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on the NBC Sports app.
NBC Sports will live stream the Trials including both prelims and finals sessions. It will also be available on NBC Sports online at NBCSports.com/Live, or through the NBC Sports app available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire.
FLORIDA GOLD COAST CURRENT/FORMER HIGH SCHOOL U.S. SWIMMING TRIALS QUALIFIERS
Miguel Cancel, Gulliver Prep; Marta Ciesla, Pine Crest; Lauren Driscoll, American Heritage Plantation; Anya Egorova, Gulliver Prep; Kelli Fertel, Gulliver Prep; Alex Evdokimov, Taravella; Casey Francis, Pine Crest; Kathleen Golding, Cooper City; Brandon Goldman, St. Thomas Aquinas; Emily Kopas, University School; Austin Manganiello, Miami Palmetto; Blake Manganiello, Miami Palmetto; Lindsey McKnight, Plantation American Heritage; Jessica Nava, Westminster Academy; Carlos Omana, Belen Jesuit; Michael Saco, Miami Palmetto; Juan Sequera, Reagan; Clara Smiddy, South Florida HEAT; Sam Smiddy, South Florida HEAT; Niki Urquidi, Gulliver Prep; Kyla Valls, Ransom Everglades.
MORE FLORIDA GOLD COAST NEWS
Reagan alum Isabella Paez, 20, of Duke will try and qualify for the Venezuelan Olympic team and University School alum Jordy Groters of Missouri will try and make the Aruba team at the June 23-26 RBC Bahamas National Swimming Championships at the Betty Kelly Kenning National Swim Complex in Nassau. Paez and Groters are former high school district, region and state champions. Foreign swimmers will have a final chance to qualify the following week at the June 29-July 2 Caribbean Islands Swimming Championships, also in the Bahamas.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org