Road to Omaha: Brigham Young University

By Cristian Corbett, Swimming World College Intern

Swimmers around the country are training and prepping for one of the largest meets of their careers: the Olympic Trials. Among those swimmers is a group that train at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

BYU will be sending seven swimmers to represent the school and the state of Utah when Trials comes around at the end of June.

The group is coached by Brigham Young University’s head swimming coach John Brooks, who is currently in his 8th season with the team, and his 4th season as head coach.

Among the swimmers to qualify is freshman Ellie Thornbrue. A native of Hillsboro, Oregon, Thornbrue has been swimming for nine years. As a freshman at Century High School in Oregon, Thornbrue was state champion in the 100 fly, as well as state champion in the 500 her junior and senior years, and was the 200 free state champion all four years of her high school career. She has qualified for the 100 butterfly for this year’s trials.

“College swimming is different than high school because it’s more of a team sport in college. In high school and club you would typically swim to get a best time, etc., which would usually be for yourself,” Ellie said. “In college, scoring points is more focused on, and being a team is definitely an important aspect of college swimming.”

BYU is also sending a sprint duo to trials, Arizona natives Connor Stirling and Payton Sorenson.

Finishing up his freshman year, Stirling hails from Cave Creek, Arizona. In high school he was state champion in the 200 free, and at BYU was named First-Team All-MPSF in the 800 free relay, 200 free relay and 400 free relay.

“I’m just living the dream, man,” Connor said. “Trials was always a goal for me, and I’m really excited to go.”

Stirling will have a busy next couple of weeks as he will be leaving on a mission for the LDS Church to Puebla North, Mexico on July 5, just two days after Trials conclude.

Payton Sorenson is from Mesa, Arizona and is finishing up is sophomore year at BYU. Sorenson was state champion in the 50 free his junior year, and was state champion in the 100 free both junior and senior years while attending Mountain View High School.

At BYU, he was ranked second on the team in the 50 and 100 free, as well as the 100 back his freshman year.

Both Arizona boys have qualified for the 50 and 100 meter freestyles at Omaha.

Photo Courtesy: Cristian Corbett

BYU’s sprint duo Connor Stirling (left) and Payton Sorenson (right). Photo Courtesy: Cristian Corbett

Perhaps BYU’s best hope at making Team USA is Utah’s own Jake Taylor. Taylor just finished his senior year at BYU and has great potential leading up to this year’s Trials.

Taylor is from Honeyville, Utah, and attended Mountain Crest High School. While there, he accomplished many things, including setting every school record, six region records and four state records. Taylor ended his high school career a 4-time region champion, 7-time state champion, 2-time Utah Swimmer of the Year and 14-time All-American.

While at BYU, Taylor didn’t stop progressing, as he was nationally ranked in the 100 back, 200 IM and 200 back his freshman year.

After his freshman year, Taylor served a mission to El Salvador and Belize for two years.

“Serving my mission was great,” Taylor said. “But I wasn’t allowed to swim, so to stay in shape I did push ups and crunches everyday. Getting back into shape after was tough, and it took me almost a year to get back into swimming shape.”

In Taylor’s most recent meet in Arizona, he swam against Olympic Gold Medalist Matt Grevers in the 100 free.


Taylor at the 2016 NCAA Division I Championships. Photo Courtesy: Reagan Lunn/Georgia Tech Athletics

“I raced him in the 100 free, but I think he beat me by just a little bit. I did time trial the 100 back, and I would’ve beaten his prelims time at that meet.”

Taylor plans to retire from swimming after Trials and settle down with his wife, Amanda, but the possibility of making Team USA or getting picked up by a major club team might be enough to change his mind.

Taylor will be competing in the 100 and 200 meter backstrokes in Omaha.

“BYU is one of only two college swimming programs in the state of Utah, so to have this many of our swimmers qualify for the Trials meet is amazing. It reflects an amazing program and an amazing university,” Coach Brooks said. “Four years ago, we had only three swimmers go, and eight years ago we only had one. To jump up to seven this year just shows how good of a program we are building here at BYU.”

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Bill Bell
5 years ago

Taylor’s the fastest mud- major backstroker if all – time.
If anyone can make Ryan Myrphy work hard it’s thus guy. W/ just two going to Rio and Murph and Annue Grevers — err, Matt — the “presumptive” favorites Taylor’s got his work cut out for him.

Too bad he doesn’t have a distant from some other nation that would allow him to get citizenship that way a la a certain Nittany Lion who for obvious reasons shall forever remain anonymous but whose initials are “SR” if I’m not mistaken.

Go get ’em, JT.

5 years ago

Ellie Thornbrue is not just a great swimmer but an amazing young lady. Love that girl.