Jake Mitchell Creating New Tradition of Excellence at Carmel Swim Club With His Olympic Berth

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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Jake Mitchell Creating New Tradition of Excellence at Carmel Swim Club With His Olympic Berth

Jake Mitchell was six years old when he remembered watching Michael Phelps win eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, igniting his Olympic dream.

“I remember watching that with some of my summer league friends and being like, ‘that’s gonna be us!'” Mitchell told Swimming World.

But it wasn’t until late 2019 when Mitchell’s dream of swimming in an Olympic Games became a goal. It was at the Summer Nationals, in which Mitchell placed second in the 400 freestyle final behind Australia’s Elijah Winnington, when he started believing that another year of training could land him a spot on the team for Tokyo. His time of 3:48.0 placed him as the second-fastest American that year.

Dream Chaser

That 400 free at Nationals put Mitchell on the team for the 2019 Junior Worlds. In Budapest, he was fourth in the 400 free, seventh in the 800 and 1500, and swam on the gold medal winning 4×200 free relay. That first taste of international racing experience fueled him for what was the original Olympic year of 2020.

“It was a lot of fun. It was definitely a different type of meet than I had been used to,” Mitchell said of World Juniors. “We had to be in the ready room 20 minutes before. I had never raced anyone from other countries, and it was different because everyone I had raced from different clubs… I was now on their team. It was a different vibe getting to be able to be teammates with those guys and being able to train with them in the weeks leading up. The international experience definitely helps leading into Tokyo and I got fourth in my best event in the 400 so that added fuel to the fire.”

With that fire, Mitchell began strengthening the weak points of his 400 freestyle – which were the second and third 100s, with the hopes of potentially getting his 3:47.9 from Budapest down to a 3:44 or a 3:45 at Olympic Trials in Omaha. With an extra year to prepare in a new training environment at the University of Michigan, a program known to produce 400 freestylers, the goal was definitely within reach.


Jake Mitchell (right) realizes his Olympic dream. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

But on the first night of Trials, although he finished in the second spot in the 400 free behind Kieran Smith, his time was not faster than the FINA A standard. His 3:48.17 was well off the pace of the 3:46.78 that he needed in order to get the second spot for Tokyo, and questions circulated over whether he would make the team.

“At Olympic Trials, people are obviously vying for a spot on the Olympic team so I was a little bit nervous and I was focused more on getting second rather than going my fastest,” Mitchell said. “I think I was caught up in racing the other six people than I was doing what I had known I trained for. I had been training for 3:44/3:45 and by the end it was too late.”

USA Swimming granted a time trial to the second through 10th place finishers in the 400 free to try to make the standard, and Mitchell got the first crack at it.

Swimming in a heat by himself, two days after the original 400 free final, Mitchell gave those remaining at the CHI Health Center something to cheer about as he swam a much more aggressive approach to a 3:45.86, and a berth on his first Olympic team.

With no one to pace off of, Mitchell remembered all the work he had done on the middle 200 over the last two years. Mitchell pressed the pace from the start and was able to stay strong throughout the race.

“I didn’t really do much in warmup of a first 50 feel-out, and I think I did a much better job of that because I knew I could be out in a pretty good rhythm. So I think for my time trial, I did a better job of hitting all those aspects and not just the ones I had thought were poor.”

Mitchell took his time trial out three seconds faster at the 200, and still hung on to beat his previous time by over two seconds.

Following Tradition


Jake Mitchell with Carmel coach Chris Plumb in high school. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Jake Mitchell had come from the legendary Carmel Swim Club in Indiana, which has built a reputation as one of the top high school programs in the country. During his four-year tenure, Carmel won two public school national titles as awarded by this publication, not including his senior year in 2020 when no award was given due to the COVID-19 pandeic.

But the club had never produced an American Olympic swimmer.

In one night in Omaha, however, the program had two.

About an hour or so before Mitchell’s time trial, fellow Carmel alum Drew Kibler finished third in the 200 freestyle and was on the team for the 4×200 free relay. Having moved from Northern California when he was 13 to the Indianapolis suburbs, he knew of the tradition that Carmel had established and he wanted to be a part of it.

“It’s a testament to the program and the coaches,” Mitchell said of being one of Carmel’s first Olympic swimmers. “They all work so hard and they are all constantly learning. When I moved to Carmel in 2013, I was shocked with the difference as far as culture and being taught things as well as being trained. You are given the workouts and you are also learning how to deal with things in swimming that can translate into your life.

“I think those things have helped a lot as well as the people that have come before you – I was able to train with Drew and that was a big part of my success and I just think having such a great coaching staff and swimmers all around you… it is really a team effort. The main thing is maintaining the culture that we have at Carmel, and making sure that stays intact and I think the results are going to continue to come.”


Jake Mitchell repping the University of Michigan. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Mitchell just finished his freshman year at the University of Michigan, where he was the Big Ten champion in the 500 free, and is following a long line of great middle distance and distance freestylers to come through the program. Connor JaegerPeter VanderkaayChris Thompson and Tom Dolan all came through Ann Arbor and won individual Olympic medals for the United States. Whether that trend continues with Mitchell remains to be seen, but he is proud to represent the maize and blue on the Olympic stage.

“There was some legacy and history I wanted to be a part of and that I wanted to represent. Connor Jaeger and Ryan Feeley sent me a video before my 400 final and were giving me pointers trying to keep it light and keep me relaxed,” Mitchell said. “It is really cool to have that alumni network that wants you to succeed and wants to see Michigan men succeed. It’s really awesome and I look forward to continuing the streak in a couple of years… but one meet at a time.”

Looking ahead to Tokyo, Mitchell is ranked 12th in the world in the 400 freestyle, among those who have qualified in that event. He is looking forward to the prelims being held in the evening, along with fine-tuning soem details to have an even better race in Tokyo.

“Having prelims at night bodes well for me. I think I am a good night swimmer… I still have to make the final because I know it is a pretty dense field at the top but I know preparing for that morning final is one thing (I am working on).

“Another thing is the end of my race…I think I did a good thing at Trials in my time trial of staying connected, but I think that I can be more relaxed while keeping the same pace going out. There’s some technical things as far as in and out of my walls being sloppy, so those are some things I was looking at that I think I can be better on.”

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