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Crean Lutheran grad Ella Eastin ready to contend at U.S. Olympic Swim Trials
OMAHA, Neb. – Ella Eastin returns to the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials on Sunday mentally and physically prepared to contend for a spot in Rio.
The 19-year-old, former Crean Lutheran standout is wiser and ready to have fun, something she didn’t experience four years ago at Trials.
“I was not ready in any way, shape or form to be there in a position to do anything crazy at that point,” Eastin said in a recent phone interview from Stanford before departing for Omaha.
“It was just a very, very difficult meet. I had come off of being a youngster and not really ever having any problems in my swimming career. That’s kind of the first time that I had to take a step back and realize that I wasn’t 12 year olds any more and it wasn’t about breaking NAGs (National Age-Group records) or it wasn’t about just beating the kids my age.
“It was a bigger deal and I had all these people who were 10-plus years older than me and knew what they were doing. I was scared … I put way too much pressure on myself.”
But Eastin is now strengthened by a new outlook. The SOCAL club product enjoyed a stellar freshman season at Stanford. She captured two individual NCAA Division 1 titles, including the 200-yard individual medley in an American record of 1 minute, 51.65 seconds.
She followed her collegiate season by posting the fastest time by American woman this year in the 200-meter individual medley with a winning touch of 2:10.54 in Atlanta in May.
But just as important as her performances was her growth in confidence.
“I’m feeling confident. That’s the biggest thing,” said Eastin, who races the 400-meter individual medley in Sunday’s noon prelims (Pacific time) on Day 1 of the Trials.
“I think being surrounded by such good swimmers on a daily basis (in college), I want to say, humanized them a little bit in the sense that I know they’re struggling with things just like I am. ... (And) after a couple months of training, I was able to keep up a little better with Maya (DiRado of Stanford) and I was able to swim at NCAAs and go faster.”
Eastin is seeded eighth in a 400 IM and fourth in the 200 IM.
There was speculation that freestyle star Katie Ledecky would race the 400 IM but she scratched, according to the heat sheets released Saturday night. Eastin will race in the fourth heat of 400 IM prelims next to Elizabeth Beisel, 23, the defending Trials champion and silver medalist from the London Games.
DiRado, 23, is seeded first in the 400 individual medley and owns the fastest time by an American this year in the 200 backstroke. But after this summer, the management science and engineering major from Stanford will stop swimming and start working at a management consulting firm in Atlanta.
She said with a smile Saturday that swimming has been boring to her at times.
“But I try to read a lot and Rob, my husband, is a software engineer, so he will give me coding exercises to do and that’s fun,” she said.