By Sarah Eckersley
LAKE OSWEGO, Oregon, July 11. GRACE Carlson, who has been training with Lake Oswego Swim Club for merely two years, swam the 50 free (26.72) this past weekend at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska. Although Carlson did not qualify for the Olympic Team, there is still plenty to be said about her athletic abilities.
Carlson will be celebrating her 13th birthday next month. That fact makes her the youngest athlete to qualify for the Trials this year.
"Grace is a huge talent," said Lake Oswego head coach Coley Stickels. "She has a feel for the water and is naturally streamlined."
Lake Oswego Swim Club has never had an athlete compete in the Olympic Trials and – this time – they had two. Carlson was joined by fellow teammate, Karen Turner. Turner, 14, swam the 100 back (1:03.46) and 200 IM (2:20.19).
The Olympic Trials was invaluable for both athletes.
"I think this was a good experience for the girls. They had been to [Grand Prix and Senior National] meets before, but the Olympic Trials is such a competitive meet," said Stickels. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity, just being there and competing against the best swimmers in the world."
For Carlson, the Trials was exhilarating.
"The most exciting part was just seeing all of the famous Olympians [in person] and racing them," she said. "My next goal is making the 2012 Olympic Team."
The goal is not, by any means, unrealistic.
"I think if they continue to work hard and stay on the track that they're on, they have a fairly good chance," said Stickels.
There is more to Carlson than her talent as a swimmer alone. She enjoys singing, learning piano, and reading in her spare time.
"My favorite series is Harry Potter," she said.
But, of course, she loves to swim, too.
"I love going to the pool and training with my friends," said Carlson. "And, when you go to a meet and you know that the training has paid off."
Carlson is right about that. The training has definitely been rewarding. No one would probably agree more with that than Stickels.
"They are great kids," he said. "They work hard and they always come to practice. I think they'll be very successful."
The 2012 Olympic Trials are four years away – and Carlson will be ready for them.