By Sharon Robb
PALO ALTO, Calif., August 3, 2019—Kathleen Golding is living her dream.
The South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer rose to the occasion with what her coach Chris Anderson called “a spectacular swim” Saturday at the Phillips 66 National Championships at Avery Aquatic Center.
Golding, 18, competing in only her second senior national championship, made her first U.S. Olympic Trials cut in the 400-meter freestyle in morning prelims.
“This is a dream come true,” said Golding, headed to the University of Florida this fall. “It’s what you work for. I am looking forward to going to college and what’s to come.”
Golding swam a lifetime-best 4:15.31 to earn a trip to the June 2020 Trials and chance to compete at the Tokyo Olympics.
Her previous best was 4:18.14. She was seeded 67th going into the race. She was 24th in prelims and qualified for the “C” final. She dropped 2.83 off her previous best.
And then, to top it off she found another gear and came back at night to better her cut time in 4:14.38 and finish 21st. Her total time drop was 3.76.
“I felt really good and strong in the morning,” Golding said. “I was really surprised it didn’t hurt that bad. I was just trying to win my heat. I wasn’t focused on the time. When I touched the wall I was surprised. I didn’t think I was going to get the Trials cut. It gave me confidence for tonight.
“I tried to come back even faster and work on my back half of the race,” Golding said. “I used my confidence from the morning to swim even faster.”
Even more satisfying was the fact Golding made the Olympic Trials qualifying standard with her longtime coach.
“I’m happy I got it with Coach, he was really happy,” Golding said. “He is the reason I am as good as I am. He’s been with me every single day at practice. It means a lot to get the cut with him.
“I had a little bit of a rough spring season, but over the summer I put in a lot of hard training and had a good section meet. It built my confidence for this meet.”
Her biggest accomplishment came less than a day after getting disqualified in the 400-meter individual medley, one of her signature events. Golding has the 200-meter individual event left to swim on Sunday.
“I honestly didn’t feel like I got disqualified,” Golding said. “I was surprised when they pulled me. It does happen and I just had to put it behind me, not think about it and focus on my other races.”
In her fourth and final event at nationals, SOFLO teammate Mary Smutny, 18, was 58th in the 400-meter freestyle in 4:21.28. Smutny is headed to University of Texas this fall.
In other Saturday races:
Ally McHugh surprised the field that featured early leaders Allison Schmitt and Sierra Schmidt to win the 400-meter freestyle in 4:07.08. McHugh pulled off a 29.77 on her final 50-meter split to reach the wall first after being fourth for most of the race.
Elijah Winnington won the men’s 400-meter freestyle in 3:47.39 to complete his sweep of the middle distance freestyles.
Breeja Larson won the 100-meter breaststroke in 1:06.78, her fastest time since 2014.
Devon Nowicki surged in the final 50 meters to win the 100-meter breaststroke in 59.69, just 1/10th of a second ahead of Craig Benson.
Amy Bilquist won the 100-meter backstroke in 59.64, the only swimmer in the final to break one minute.
Shaine Casas won the men’s 100-meter backstroke in 52.72, fifth fastest time in the world this year.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com