Kendra Stern Qualifies for Olympic Trials
By Carlyn Robertson '14, Managing Sports Editor
Less than two weeks after competing in the NCAA Championships, senior Kendra Stern, Div. III National Swimmer of the Year, qualified for the Olympic Trials. Early next summer, Stern will compete in three events in an attempt to qualify for the 2012 Olympic games.

On April 8-10, Stern headed to the University of Michigan for the 2011 Eric Namesnik Grand Prix. Stern faced a number of challenges, including incredibly tough competition and the transition from a 25-meter short course pool to the 50-meter long course. Stern raced among the best of the best. “More than anything being at the meet was really inspiring,” she said. “Having the chance to see some of the top swimmers in the country like Natalie Coughlin, Katie Hoff, Dana Vollmer, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte race is really jaw-dropping.”

Competing among these world-class athletes also gave her the chance to see them as regular swimmers. Stern recalled an incident in the crowded warm-up pool. She said, “there were a bunch of people hanging on to the wall at one end, so when I flip-turned l was forced to bump into a few of them. It wasn’t until a split second later that I realized I was pushing off of Ryan Lochte...oops. It was funny to know that even Ryan Lochte gets in people’s way in the warm up pool.”

Stern did an excellent job maintaining her focus despite the unfamiliar and perhaps intimidating atmosphere, saying “It’s nerve-wracking to know that I was swimming in the pool with really fast people, but you just have to think of them as good competition, and you can use good competition to fuel your own races.” Her first race was the 200-meter freestyle, in which she holds the NCAA Div. III record. She swam a 2:04.26 in the preliminaries, which was just out of reach of the 2:03.19 Olympic Trial cut. Stern came back for the finals that afternoon and swam a 2:02.01, which put her in 10th place and earned her a spot in the Trials. To put Stern’s competition in perspective, six of the top eight finishers in the 200 are on the 2011 World Championship team.

Her next event was the 400-meter freestyle. Stern’s preliminary time of 4:19.18 was .21 seconds below the cut, and she qualified for her second event in the Olympic Trials. In the 100-meter freestyle, in which she also holds the NCAA Div. III record, Stern once again needed the final heat to qualify. She swam a 57.26 in the morning’s prelims, but finished with a 57.10 in the finals, .9 seconds under the cut. Stern said, “I have always been a night-swimmer, so when I have to get up and swim fast in the morning for prelims, it’s a challenge. Coming back for finals is a whole different story because there is more atmosphere and I get a lot more nervous, which means I get a bigger adrenaline rush.”

Stern also used the prelims as a chance to adjust to the longer distance pool. For a 100 in a 25-meter pool, one swims four laps with three flip-turns, but in the 50-meter pool, it is two laps and just one flip-turn. Fewer flip-turns means that swimmers take more strokes during a race and lose the advantage and acceleration of pushing off the wall. Stern said, “I had to adapt to completely different race plans than I am used to, and by finals I had a little experience under my belt.”

The Olympic Trials will take place June 25-July 2, 2012. Stern hasn’t yet made her plans for training next year. She said “there are a lot of considerations I need to take into account and that is not something I can do immediately. I can only hope it works out for me that I can train somewhere warm!”

Issue 23, Submitted 2011-04-20 04:42:03