Four Maine swimmers have qualified for the United States Olympic Swimming Trials scheduled for June 4-7 and June 13-17 in Omaha, Nebraska.
Emily Ecker, who swam for Cape Elizabeth High School, the Portland Porpoises and now competes at the University of Wisconsin, qualified in the 400 freestyle at Friday’s meet held in Wisconsin. She completed the event with a time of 4 minutes, 15.8 seconds.
Another trials qualifier with Maine swimming connections is Harry Homans, who swam at the Penobscot Bay YMCA and later Southern Maine Aquatics before relocating out of state. Homans, a swimmer at the University of Southern California, will compete in the 200-meter butterfly, 100-meter fly, and 200-meter back.
And James Wells and Olivia Harper, swimmers for the Bath YMCA’s Longreach Swim Club, will both compete in the 100-meter backstroke.
The 29-year-old Wells, who swam two years on the pro tour following his All-America career at Indiana University, qualified for his third Olympic trials in the summer of 2019. Wells competed in the 2012 and 2016 trials, and has been a multi-year finalist in the Big Ten competition for his 100-meter backstroke.
“My competitive drive drives everything I do,” Wells said, when asked about his decision to seek his third trials’ qualification.
When his pool training was disrupted as a result of training facility closures due to the coronavirus, Wells initiated what he refers to as “Rocky type” training.
“I chopped 5 cords of wood for my father and then chopped wood for my uncle. I ran and focused on improving my fitness levels,” Wells said.
Approaching the trials, Wells admits he is more relaxed than he has been for past trials.
“I am able to enjoy the whole experience without being overwhelmed and I am excited for Olivia [Harper] to have the experience of the trials.”
“He is a more relaxed athlete and relaxed athletes perform better. He is right where he wants to be,” Jay Morrissette, the head coach of the Long Reach Swim Club, said.
Harper, who was named an All-American as a freshman this season at the University of Tennessee, will be competing in her first trials after qualifying at the YMCA Nationals in the summer of 2018.
“Her college experience at Tennessee has been fantastic. She is a lot stronger and has gained confidence as a swimmer,” Morissette said.
Harper had an opportunity to remain in Knoxville and prepare for the trials in a 50-meter pool equipped with the latest training devices. She elected instead to return to Bath and train with Morissette and Long Reach’s national group.
Morissette has previous Olympic trials coaching experience, as one of his former swimmers competed in the 2016 trials.
“It was a tough decision. My coaches were there and we were training long course [50 meters],” Harper, who was a three-event National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association All-American in 2020, said. “Ultimately, though, I qualified for the Trials under Jay and swimming with LRSC. I have been with Jay and the club team for 10 years and I have a great deal of comfort here.”
“I am blessed to have people like Jay and James who know so much. I am very excited and very thankful given all that has happened with covid to have this opportunity,” Harper said.
Morrissette said that Wells and Harper will be outstanding ambassadors for Maine swimming and serve as great examples of what’s possible coming out of the state’s competitive programs.
“It will show Maine’s younger swimmers the reality is that Maine swimmers can compete at this level,” Morrissette said.
To address health and safety matters related to the coronavirus, USA Swimming announced in January a Wave 1 and 2 format for this year’s trials.
Homans will swim in Wave 2, which is set for June 13-17 and will include the top 40-50 swimmers in each event.
Wells and Harper are scheduled to compete on Friday with the Wave 1 qualifiers. Ecker will compete in the 400 free on Sunday.
Morissette projects that there could be as many as 150 swimmers per event.
In each Wave 1 event, the top two finishers advance to Wave 2. First- and second-place finishers in the finals of Wave 2 will earn spots on the U.S. Olympic Team.
Story by Robby MacDonald