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Haley enjoys Olympic swim trials

By: Matt Long
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Sara Haley’s got a lot of her life left in front of her, but even she’s not so sure she’ll have an experience to match competing in the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials. Held June 29 through July 6 in Omaha, Neb., the trials featured the best swimmers in the United States competing for a spot on the 2008 Olympic team. Haley, a 17-year-old junior at Oak Ridge High, was thrilled to be a participant. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Haley said. “It’s one of the coolest things I’m probably ever going to get to do and I had a lot of fun.” From the size of the building and the pool to the number of fans, the experience was overwhelming and that’s not even considering the opportunity to compete against the top American swimmers. The first time Haley walked into the Qwest Center to compete, the sight of the 14,000-plus spectators made her speechless. “They tell you not to look up, but I did,” Haley said. “It was unbelievable.” Haley opened her Olympic trial experience by competing in the 100-meter butterfly time trial on June 29, and promptly swam her best time of 1 minute, 2.4 seconds. Two days later she swam in the 200-meter freestyle time trail and swam a 2:09.2. Both her 100-meter butterfly and 200-meter freestyle times were personal-best marks by more than a second. Her 1.02.4 was just a half-a-second off of the qualifying mark to compete in the trials in that event. Then on July 2, Haley competed in the 200-meter butterfly race and posted the 64th-best time out of 97 competitors, finishing in 2:17.04. Though it was three seconds slower than her personal-best time of 2:14.04, which she swam at the Santa Clara Grand Prix on May 18 to qualify her for the Olympic trials, Haley was pleased with her performance. “I’m happy with my race,” Haley said. “It wasn’t my best time, but I did well.” Considering the nerves that Haley had, she’s lucky she swam that fast. She said she was incredibly nervous for the race. “You’re sitting back there before you come out and all the girls are staring at the wall and no one is saying anything,” Haley said. “I was hoping someone would just talk to me. I felt like I was going to throw up and in fact someone asked me if I needed a trash can. “Then you walk out and it was the most people I’d ever seen before. I was thinking, ‘am I really doing this?’ I had a good swim, though, but it was the most nervous I’ve ever been. “It was a lot of fun at the same time, though. I was so glad when it was over. I had waited a long time to swim and it was just a relief when it was finally over.” Being one of the younger competitors at the trials, Haley is already looking forward to her next chance to make the Olympic team in 2012. She said this year’s trip to the trials invigorated her. “Just being there just made me fall in love with swimming again,” Haley said. “It just wants to make you go home and train even harder. “It was a good experience for me. I know I’ll never be as nervous as I was for another meet until the next trials.” Haley will be competing in the 18-and-under Junior Nationals in Minnesota in early August, before taking some time off. After that she will also take some time to think about what college recruiting trips to take, as several schools are interested in her.