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The Eastern Echo Thursday, May 30, 2024 | Print Archive
The Eastern Echo

Three Eagles who took on the 2016 Olympic trials

Over the summer, Eastern Michigan University was well represented by some of our best swimmers. Both seniors Alexis Mitcheltree and Cole Bateman, and sophomore Tom Gillis, who were all olympic qualifiers of 2016 and competed against some of the best swimmers across the country during trials.

As qualified swimmers and participants in the trials, it took a lot of hard work and effort.

"I practiced 6 days a week, 20 plus hours, inside the pool and in the weight room," said Alexis Mitcheltree.

In similar response to Mitcheltree, Cole Bateman also mentioned the efforts and dedications to make it to the Olympic trials, "I practiced as hard as I could through my entire junior year college season, not taking any breaks, and training straight into the trails," he said. "Mentally I got prepared by watching videos from past meets like the last Olympics and national meets."

The 2016 U.S. olympic trials in Omaha, Nebraska also caused Mitcheltree to make many sacrifices in order for her to compete.

"I had to give up a lot of free time in order for me to prepare and excel. One of them being I had to give up staying out late because I would have practice early the next morning," she said.

In contrast, Bateman's sacrifices involved health and avoiding any risks.

" During the months leading up to the meet we had to make many sacrifices. We had to make sure that we were in the healthiest shape of our lives. I couldn't do anything that would put me at risk of getting injured or anything like that," said Batesman.

The EMU swimmers competed against hundreds of other top swimmers and previous medalist from America, but when asked was there any pressure, their responses were quite humble.

"There was no pressure because it was a learning experience for me competing at such a high level," said Mitcheltree.

"Racing the top 100-200 people in the nation is something that will definitely make you nervous. Only the top two from each event makes Team USA, so the pressure to make the team wasn't really there compared to the pressure of just trying to get a best time or making a second swim," said Bateman.

Mitcheltree, as the only female from EMU swimmer to make it to trials this year, held the house down in front of thousands of people with a converted time of 2:02.89 in the 200 backstroke, leaving her in 99th-place. This marked her highest place during trials after falling in 107th in the 100 backstroke.

"There are no words that can describe this experience. It was an honor to see all my hard work pay off," said Mitcheltree.

"I never would have gotten there without the help of Peter Linn, the support of my family and the ones close to me. "

Bateman also competed in the 100 and 200 backstroke at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials. He finished 33rd-place in the 100 back with a long course time of 56.02. He ended the trials with a 18th-ranked prelim time, which qualified him for the semifinals where he earned 15th-place with a long course time of 2:01.14.

"Swimming in the Olympic trails has shown me that when you put your mind to something that you can achieve any goal," said Bateman.

"My goals for 2020 are to make the meet again and hopefully place higher than I did this past year."

And let's not forget Tom Gillis, who Qualified for the 2016 Canadian Olympic Diving Trials.

"Since I started the sport, it was one of my goals to compete at that level," said Gillis. "Up until I actually qualified for the trials, I thought I would have to wait until 2020 for my chance. I definitely surprised myself with my performance leading up to it."

Unlike Alexis and Cole, Tom was named the first freshman diver in program history to qualify for nations after placing 8th at the NCAA Zone C Diving Chamionpships this past March. Hollis definitely has raised som eyebrows with his time during his meets and could qualify for future Olympic trials again.

"Having had that experience in Olympic trials four years earlier than I anticipated, I'm now looking to achieve other goals," said Gillis.

Overall, the swimmers gained many memories and life changing experiences from competing in the 2016 trials.

"During your average swim meet there are no more than a few 100 people there watching. At trails, walking on a pool deck with thousands of people watching you race will be something I will never forget," said Mitcheltree.

"My favorite memory was seeing all the little kids reaching there hands over trying to give everyone a high five. You can't help but smile at them," said Bateman.

Now with trials completed, the swimmers and the rest of the Eagles swim&dive team set out to start their 2016-2017 season this month with their first meet against Denison on Saturday, October 22nd.