Wave I Olympic Trials: Regardless of Situation, Still an Experience of a Lifetime (DAY ONE HEAT SHEETS AVAILABLE)

Omaha (seen here in 2016) will once again host Wave I & II Trials in 2021. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Wave I Olympic Trials: Regardless of Situation, Still an Experience of a Lifetime

After a long, long wait, the first wave of the Olympic Trials are finally here, set to begin Friday morning 10 a.m. CST with finals beginning each night at 7 p.m. CST. The top two in each event from Wave I will get the opportunity to race in Wave II, where USA Swimming will be selecting its delegation to represent the Stars and Stripes at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

With an unprecedented split Trials meet happening in 2021, the year of the pandemic, this could potentially cause some crazy things to happen. Will someone from Wave I have a huge breakout swim, advance to Wave II and find themselves on the plane to Tokyo? In looking at the last three Olympic Trials in 2016, 2012 and 2008, the majority of the people advancing to the final in each event come from the top 40. But again, nothing in the pandemic year is precedented, and crazier things have happened.

Watch Out for Rising Stars


13-year-old Gretchen Walsh at 2016 Trials. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

With a ticket to Wave II on the line for the top two, how much will that spur those swimmers in the finals? There’s a couple rising stars at the meet, including national age group record holder Teagan O’Dell of Irvine Novaquatics, who will swim in the 100 and 200 back. There is 13-year-old Kayla Han of La Mirada Armada, who will swim the 400 IM, and 14-year-olds Zuri Ferguson (100 back), Alex Shackell (100 fly), Leah Shackley (100 back), and Olivia Suarez (200 fly). The youngest boys in the meet are 15-year-olds Joshua Chen (100, 200 breast) and Cooper Lucas (200 fly).


13-year-old Lia Neal at 2008 Trials. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Flash back to five years ago at the 2016 Trials when 13-year-old Gretchen Walsh and 14-year-old Carson Foster were two of the youngest competitors in Omaha. The two have grown into contenders in their respective events next week at the 2021 Trials.

In 2012, 15-year-olds Katie Ledecky and Kathleen Baker, as well as 16-year-old Caeleb Dressel, got their first taste of Trials action that ultimately helped them make the team in 2016, while Ledecky also made the team in 2012.

In 2008, 13-year-olds Lia Neal and Missy Franklin experienced their first Trials at age 13 before making their first team at 17 in 2012.

Some of the aforementioned names in this Wave I group may become Olympic favorites for Paris three years from now when they are finishing high school, and maybe even seven years down the line for a home Olympics in Los Angeles 2028.

Although these swimmers in Wave I may not be household names now, the experience of being in Omaha will help with their careers moving forward, whether they come to Omaha and swim poorly or come to Omaha and find themselves staying for Wave II.

Many Olympians who punch their ticket to Tokyo will reminisce on their first Trials in Omaha and reflect on how that experience helped them make the team this time around. For all the swimmers in Wave I, this experience of being in Omaha, albeit a smaller crowd and not surrounded by Olympians, will be an experience they will remember for their whole lives.

Wave I Trials Coverage:

  • Friday, June 4:
    • USA Swimming; 11 a.m. ET
    • Olympic Channel; 8 p.m. ET
      • 100m Freestyle, 200m Butterfly, 100m Backstroke, 800m Freestyle
  • Saturday, June 5:
    • USA Swimming; 11 a.m. ET
    • Olympic Channel; 8 p.m. ET
      • 200m Freestyle, 100m Breaststroke, 400m IM
  • Sunday, June 6:
    • USA Swimming; 11 a.m. ET
    • Olympic Channel; 8 p.m. ET
      • 400m Freestyle, 100m Butterfly, 200m Backstroke
  • Monday, June 7:
    • USA Swimming; 11 a.m. ET
    • Olympic Channel; 8 p.m. ET
      • 200m IM, 50m Freestyle, 200m Breaststroke, 1500m Freestyle