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Happy trials: Ad Astra swimmers off to Omaha

Ad Astra Area Aquatics swimmers Katie Price, left, and Molly Albrecht will compete in the upcoming Olympic trials.

Ad Astra Area Aquatics swimmers Katie Price, left, and Molly Albrecht will compete in the upcoming Olympic trials.

June 22, 2012

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Sometimes coaches struggle to relate to the athletes with whom they are working.

For Katie Price and Molly Albrecht, of Ad Astra Area Aquatics, that isn’t an issue.

Price, head age-group coach for AAAA, and Albrecht, now in her third year swimming with the club, don’t have any trouble seeing eye-to-eye through their swim goggles.

The two are peers as they prepare to compete next week at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb.

Price, 24, will race in the 100 breast (Tuesday) and 200 breast (Friday) at CenturyLink Center, while Albrecht’s heat for the 200 back doesn’t come until Saturday.

A native of South Dakota, Price’s competitive swimming career began “a little bit later than everyone else” at 11. She went on to swim at the University of Minnesota for two years before transferring back home and finishing her college career at South Dakota State. Price served as head coach of Brookings Swim Club in her home state before moving to Lawrence and joining AAAA in August 2011.

She loves coaching the Ad Astra swimmers, but Price said preparing with Albrecht for the trials has made her experience even more special because of the support and companionship the two can share.

“To train with (a swimmer) that also has a trials cut and is going to the same meet, it just allows it to be more of a group and a team feeling,” Price said.

A Free State High graduate and junior at Yale, Albrecht, 21, said she and Price are very different swimmers, but they’ve enjoyed sharing a path to the Olympic trials.

“It’s been great to have somebody that has the same goal as you motivating you every day,” Albrecht said. “Especially because we swim different events — we really have time to watch each other swim.”

AAAA head coach Patrick Norman said about 0.01 percent of the nation’s swimmers qualify for the Olympic trials.

“To have two on one team is pretty cool,” he said.

Making the cuts

Qualifying for the trials couldn’t have been more different experiences for Price and Albrecht.

When Price’s college career ended at SDSU, her future as a competitor was uncertain at best. But making the Olympic trials remained a dream, so when she joined Norman’s AAAA staff, she told him she was interested in training. That was fine with him.

Her revamped workouts began in September, and two months later, at the Minnesota Grand Prix, she finished the 200 breast in 2:35.84. Immediately, Price realized the meaning behind those numbers.

“I knew the time standard in my head,” she recalled. “I memorized it: 2:35.99.”

A few months later, in February, Price lowered that time to 2:33.83 and finished the 100 breast with a personal-best time of 1:11.94, another Olympic-trial cut time.

Albrecht actually made the cut back in her first year with Ad Astra, in 2010. She had what she considered a strong race, finishing the 200 back in 2:17.21.

The problem was, the Olympic trial standards for 2012 hadn’t been announced at that point, and Albrecht didn’t know if the cuts would change from 2008, when it was 2:17.99.

“I never had that touching-the-wall ‘Oh, I just made it’ moment,” Albrecht said.

She looked for the new standards online often and eventually learned the 200 back time hadn’t changed. She was in.

Next stop: Omaha

Albrecht’s two-year wait is nearly over.

“It’s been a long time,” she said.

Between college swim meets, nationals and her summers competing with AAAA, Albrecht said she didn’t waste much personal time stressing about her eventual appearance at the Olympic trials.

“It’s definitely motivating, but at the same time, it’s never even really a focus, because there are so many steps in the process,” she said. “It was always just in the back of my head that I was going to have this opportunity.”

When Albrecht fractured a rib in January, her focus narrowed. She knew she had to be careful with her training as she recovered.

Now that she’s healthy, she said her training hasn’t necessarily become more intense leading up to the trials.

Price’s regimen includes swimming every day — three times a week with AAAA — as well as weight-lifting, cardio, endurance and other “dry-land exercises.”

Albrecht said a personal record at the trials would make her happy. Price would love to finish in the top 24 in the 200 breast, and she knows that would take shedding as many as five seconds off of her best.

As for making the Olympic team? Well, many events feature more than 100 swimmers, and, as Price pointed out, only the top two in each event earn that honor.

“You could be the third-fastest in the world, and you don’t get to represent the United States,” she said. “You could win a medal at the Olympics, but you don’t get to go because you’re American.”

Albrecht and Price won’t be the only competitors with Lawrence ties competing at the trials.

AAAA alum and Lawrence High graduate Emma Reaney, a sophomore at Notre Dame, will swim in the 200 IM, 200 breast, 400 IM and 100 breast.

Kansas University, meanwhile, will have two current swimmers — Brooke Brull (200 IM, 200 back) and Stephanie Payne (400 IM and 200 fly) — in action, as well as incoming freshmen Chelsie Miller (200 IM, 200 breast and 400 IM) and Haley Molden (100 free). Plus, KU volunteer assistant Danielle Herrmann (100 breast and 200 IM), a former Jayhawks swimmer, is set to swim at the trials.

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