Trenton Julian Will Swim Fifth Year at Cal, Excited for His Swimming Future

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Trenton Julian at the 2021 Olympic Trials -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Trenton Julian Will Swim Fifth Year at Cal, Excited for His Swimming Future

Cal’s Trenton Julian, who finished second, third and fourth individually at the 2021 NCAA championships and then qualified for the final in three events at the U.S. Olympic Trials, will be returning to Berkeley for a fifth year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA announced that all winter sport athletes during the 2020-2021 year would be allowed an extra year of athletic eligibility, and Julian decided to take advantage of that change.

“The fifth year made the most sense to me because I still had some classes left in the fall, which would have conflicted with going pro or ISL,” he said. “Being with the team and training with them through the fall and then through the spring made the most sense, and it’s something I wanted to do to kind of stay with that team through another semester where it will be a little more of that normal atmosphere in training.”

During this college season, Julian finished fourth in the 500 free at the NCAA championships behind Jake Magahey, Kieran Smith and Brooks Fail, and then he took third in the 200 free behind Smith and Drew Kibler. In his signature 200 fly, where he is the third-fastest performer in history in short course yards, Julian led for the entire race but fell off on the last 50 as Louisville’s Nicolas Albiero touched him out.

The duo are likely to match up again next March at the NCAA championships in Atlanta after Albiero joined Julian in choosing to return to school for a fifth year.

“I had somewhat of an idea that he would come back, but it was nice to see the official announcement today,” Julian said on Albiero’s decision. “We’ve raced a few times long course and short course in the past couple years. I think that would be really good for the end of the year 200 fly at NCAAs. I know who’s going to be there and who I’m going to race, so I can kind of prepare for that. I think it will be a really good battle.”

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Trenton Julian competing at the 2021 Olympic Trials — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

In long course, Julian was in contention to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in the 200 fly. Entering the meet, his season-best time of 1:55.77 was the top time in the country for 2021. In the semifinals in Omaha, he went out in a blistering pace and turned in 1:23.25 at the 150-meter mark—more than a second faster than anyone else in the field—but he ended up splitting 32.10 on the last 50 and fading to a 1:55.35, still a best time.

In the final, Julian was again first through 150 meters, but even though his 1:24.33 split was a full second slower than in the semifinal race, he still faded on the last lap, this time to fifth.

Julian called the Trials experience “nerve-wracking and a lot more pressure-filled then I expected going in,” but he said he was mostly excited about how he performed. The task going forward is to figure out how to swim that same style of race but in a more relaxed manner through the first 75 meters and then not getting too tight in his stroke so he can hold that speed coming home.

“It was never really the plan to go out in 1:23. It was just to swim my race like I always have and see what happens. It felt pretty similar to what I’ve been doing the past few years,” Julian said. “I think I got in my head a little bit for that finals swim, the first time going out with or having that kind of speed in my life, so I think I got in my head thinking maybe I was going out a little too fast and didn’t let myself kind of have that finals race.”

The key to unlocking his full potential in the 200 fly, Julian said, is “not tightening up in my stroke that first 100, especially that middle hundred, and kind of letting myself stay relaxed that first 75 and being able to really come home the last 50 where I’m racing and not just trying to finish.”

Julian also took eighth in the 200 IM at Trials and then ended up a surprising fourth in the 100 fly, an event where almost no one had pegged Julian as a serious contender. Even Julian was surprised that he swam 51.7 on three different occasions. “I think this year was the first time I’d ever been under 54. I was 53 at a dual meet, and that was a good race for me. I was not expecting much in the 100 fly. Just swam my race and was pretty surprised by the result.”

Before he returns to school, Julian indicated he planned to compete at USA Swimming’s Summer Championships next month in Irvine, Calif., and “either race some off-events or just do some events I think I can do better in.” And then, following his fifth year at Cal, Julian said he plans to pursue a professional swimming career, and after his marked improvement over the past year, he had a good chance of establishing a foothold for himself in the International Swimming League and then likely in long course as well.

Despite not putting everything together in the gauntlet of Olympic Trials, it has been a stellar year for Julian, which he chalked up to missing out on his target racing opportunity at the end of the 2020 college season and not racing at all in the summer of 2020 due to the pandemic. After that layoff from racing but only briefly from training, Julian knew a breakout was in order.

“I kind of felt like I had a lot that I didn’t get to show for that year,” he said. “The whole year of straight training help me prepare and push to a different level.”

And Julian thinks there is more fast swimming to unlock. “I’m excited to see what I can change up and not fix but make better.”

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