ORANGE PARK - Two stories that are slowly emerging from the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials upcoming events in Omaha (June 13-20) are one coach and one swimmer from Clay County making a first trip and …
ORANGE PARK - Two stories that are slowly emerging from the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials upcoming events in Omaha (June 13-20) are one coach and one swimmer from Clay County making a first trip and another guy who could win just about all the gold medals he wants at the Tokyo Olympics.
“I’ve just been kind of lucky,” said Fleming Island High graduate and third in state butterfly specialist Kyle Casias, who now coaches up for Planet Swim Aquatics out of the Argyle Pool, and is readying Clay High graduate state champion Sara Stotler for her first U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in a week. “I have a great support team and owe a lot to Shawn Delifus and the Stroke Doctor program from a few years ago and then the coaches and athletes that have believed in me since then. I’m always doing research to be smarter and use the latest ideas to make my swimmers excel.”
Ironically, Casias and Fleming Island High baseball coach Grant Bigilin, who recently guided the Golden Eagles to a Class 6A runnerup finish, were classmates.
“I think we both reach out to other coaches for advice,” said Casias. “He has a great assistant coach group as I do and we make it work.”
The obvious second swim story is another Clay High graduate and state swim champion, multiple world champion and world record holder, Olympic gold medalist and a host of other accolades, Caeleb Dressel, who goes in as clear favorite in a handful of events. But, Dressel is another story to be continued. He is in.
Casias’ top swimmer, Stotler, will have the opportunity to compete at the Trials with Olympic Trials cuts in the 100 butterfly (59.58), the 200 Individual Medley (2:15.68), the 200 butterfly and the 200 free (2:01.60). Stotler dropped nearly two seconds off her 200IM best time to get under the 2:17.39 Olympic qualifying time.
Stotler, twice a butterfly state champion and multiple medalist for the Blue Devils, who has slowly crept up on the U.S. Olympic Trials swim cuts (qualifying times) will be competing in Omaha amongst the world’s best swimmers trying to make the U.S. Olympic team.
Her first dip under the Olympic standards was in February with her 100 butterfly split at the Southern Sectional Championships in Sarasota just a day before winning her 100 fly high school state title.
In Sarasota, Stotler split at 1:00.63 to get under the Wave I cut, then improved to her 59.58 in May in Orlando to get the Wave II cut.
“She has taken little pieces off as we go,” said Casias. “If we hit it right in Omaha; she swims strong, someone else has a bad day, we get lucky and maybe get close.”
For Casias, Stotler’s ascension into the top 40 ranks of national swimming with her recent 59.58 100 butterfly split that is an Olympic Trials Wave II cut, the upcoming Trials is a chance to see the big lights, see the big names and maybe get her own shot at a team spot. Stotler also has a Wave I cut in the 200 butterfly.
“She’s in the top 40 and that’s an accomplishment,” said Casias. “The Wave I cut are simply qualifiers (top 600 swimmers after top 40) to become Wave II qualifiers. They will have their own Trials a week prior with an opportunity to improve enough to get a bid into the Wave II meet which follows.”
Stotler, with her Wave II cut, will not have to swim in the Wave I meet, but advances into the Wave II meet in three events; 100, 200 butterfly and 200 free, because of having at least one Wave II cut.
Stotler has a Wave I cut in the 200 free with her 2:01.60 at the 2020 U.S. Open (cut is 2:01.69) and also the 200 butterfly. Wave I swimmers will compete June 4-7 with Wave II scheduled for June 13-20 with the eventual top 60 swimmers per event. There will be two groups swimming this final weekend chasing cuts: those without cuts seeking just to swim at Olympic Trials and those with fast Wave I times who want a Wave II cut to bypass the Wave I meet. Wave I swimmers must finish in the top two to get invited to Wave II.
“The final qualifying times must be in by May 30,” said Casias. “We will be doing double workouts the next week or so to ready for the tournament schedule.”