The student weekly of St. Olaf College
Manitou Messenger: Westby off to Trials

Westby off to Trials

By Pat Slack
Sports Editor
Friday, May 9, 2008

The unusually wet weather has created challenges for numerous St. Olaf athletes this spring, but it has failed to dampen Olympic fever on the Hill surrounding phenom swimmer Nelson Westby '09, one Ole athlete who is known to enjoy the water.

At the Ohio State Grand Prix Invitational April 4-6, Westby posted a time of 1:03.9 in the 100-meter breaststroke, earning him a spot at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials June 29-July 6 in Omaha, Neb.

The 100-meter breaststroke field will be stacked with the top swimmers in the country, some of whom are past Olympic and World Championship gold medalists, including six-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps. On top of that, the event will be held before a national television audience, creating a daunting challenge for any first-time entrant. Westby, however, is excited for the chance.

"To be honest, just being there and having the opportunity to race with the best in the world is what I'm most excited about," Westby said. He added that his coach tells their team before big meets that "If you've got a lane you've got a chance." By going into the Trials with this attitude, Westby believes anything is possible.

Simply qualifying for the Trials is a momentous achievement. The U.S. Olympic Swimming Committee assembles every four years following the Summer Olympics to set time standards for the following Olympic Trials. The time standards have become increasingly harder to meet. This year's requirement for the 100-meter breaststroke is 1:04.69, a standard that has currently been met by 103 swimmers across the country.

One of the added difficulties in meeting this time for a collegiate swimmer such as Westby is that it must be done at an event measured in long course meters, rather than short course yards, which is the measurement for NCAA events.

Even though there will be significant variations in the size and strength of the field, in race measurements and also overall audience attention, Westby plans on preparing as he usually does.

"The meet is much bigger than any other meet I've competed in and I'll be racing the best in the world, but as for my approach to the meet, there will be no change," he said. "I love being pushed in competition. I know I'll get the best out of myself."

In addition to qualifying for the Trials, Westby has compiled numerous achievements in his first three years at St. Olaf. With a national championship already under his belt in the 200-yard individual medley last year, he proceeded to add more hardware to his trophy case this year in addition to rewriting the Ole record book.

At this year's NCAA Division III National Championships, Westby secured a trifecta of top three finishes in the 100-yard breaststroke, 200-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard individual medley, repeating as national champion in the latter event with a time of 1:48.54. In the 100-yard breaststroke he placed second with a time of :54.50 and he came in third at 2:01.09 in the 200-yard breaststroke.

Westby achieved new school records in each event, while he bettered the previous national record in the 100-yard breaststroke, finishing a mere hundredth of a second behind the winner.

Westby will continue training throughout the summer leading up to the Trials, before returning to St. Olaf for his senior year where he will continue his historic career.

The Manitou Messenger is a student publication of St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn. It is published weekly during the academic year except during vacations, exam periods and interim. The cost for one year's subscription is $45.00. Postage is paid in Northfield, Minnesota. Manitou Messenger
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