Calypso Sheridan Chasing NCAA Title, Olympic Team Spot in 2020

Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

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It took one race to let Calypso Sheridan know she reached the next level.

Hoping to make the finals at the NCAA championships last year in the 400 IM, the Northwestern swimmer from Australia put together the best race of her career, breaking school and Big Ten records to finish fourth in 4:01.35.

She dropped several seconds and earned that All-American finish and put together an anchoring freestyle leg that opened her eyes to her potential.

“It definitely wasn’t something I expected. My freestyle in the finals was 1:01 at Big Tens and at NCAAs, the freestyle was 57,” Calypso Sheridan told Swimming World. “I still have a long way to go. I saw (Stanford’s) Brooke Forde going by me and I realized I needed to work on freestyle a lot more. Swimming next to Brooke at NCAAs emphasized that freestyle was definitely not her weak stroke — she just ran me down.”

And so Sheridan began working on her freestyle.

“I have been working on freestyle a lot more. It was really good to see that I was coming home stronger and my training had paid off,” she said.

She started the season strong, going a 4:05.33 in the 400 IM at the SMU Classic, earning Most Valuable Swimmer of the meet. But since then, she has been working on freestyle and hasn’t even competed in the 400 IM.

“I have definitely done a lot more racing this season, which I have enjoyed. I haven’t raced my 400 IM since SMU,” she said. “My goal is under 4:00. I am focusing on nailing my breaststroke and my freestyle.”

If Sheridan is to pull off a national title, she would be the first Northwestern woman swimmer to win an NCAA title in school history. Matt Grevers and Mike Alexandrov as well as diver Olivia Rosendahl have won national titles for the Wildcats in the last 15 years, but a woman swimmer never has stood atop the podium. But Sheridan’s main focus is getting as many swimmers to NCAAs as possible.

She has been primarily focusing on backstroke this season as well as sprint freestyle, all in hopes of getting a relay to NCAAs. Northwestern hasn’t sent a relay to nationals in years, something the Wildcats are hoping to change.

“Our major focus is our relays. We are in a position to finally get a relay to NCAAs. That would be pretty incredible,” Sheridan said.

Sheridan will play a mutually beneficial part to those relays, working on her freestyle racing in the free relays.

Then after NCAAs, Sheridan will turn her focus to the long course season and the Australian trials. She is happy about the timing of the major meets. In the past the Australian Trials have been in April, but the Aussies have since shifted their qualifying trials closer to the major meet at the end of the summer similar to the United States.

“Australian trials is not until June, so I will have plenty of time to train more long course,” Calypso Sheridan said. “I think I have to drop 0.7 seconds from the Australian Championships last year (4:38). Last year, I wanted to see how long course was going because it wasn’t a huge priority. Going into this year, I have a better idea how to prepare for long-course trials. 200 IM, 400 IM, we will have a go.

“It would be amazing to make the Olympic team. I definitely do have a chance at the 400 IM.”

If she can hit the time standard, she is likely to qualify. Australia only had one qualifier in each IM event four years ago, and it has been an area that the country has struggled in since the days of Stephanie Rice in 2008 and Alicia Coutts in 2012.

“It is a lot of opportunity for Australians in the IM events,” she said. “There is a lot of rom to step up because that is what Australia needs.”