Four swimmers representing different paths will represent Carson City next week at the United States Swimming Championships.
Carson High graduate Lauren Costella and Jamie Engan, who will be a junior at Carson, will represent the Carson Tigersharks at the meet, while Carson High graduates and sisters Julie and Kate Hardt will also swim in the competition to be held Aug. 3-7 at Stanford.
While the top swimmers who qualified for the Olympics at this month's U.S. Olympic Trials will be training for Athens and won't be competing in the nationals, there will still be a talented field at Stanford. Since only two swimmers qualify for individual events in the Olympics, there will be many Olympic-caliber swimmers at nationals.
Hardt, who ended her collegiate career at the University of Georgia this past spring, is likely coming to the end of her swimming career. Meanwhile, Costella, who will be a sophomore at Stanford, still has several years left in the pool.
Engan is just beginning her career at the elite level, competing in her first national championships. Julie and Kate, who will be a sophomore at the University of Minnesota, will swim for Reno Aquatics.
Costella and Julie will also try to rebound from disappointing performances at the Olympic Trials. Costella and Engan will swim in the 800-meter freestyle on the first day of the meet on Aug. 3.
Based on seedings, Julie could have the best performance, as she's seeded fifth in the 200 free (two minutes, 2.09 seconds). Costella is also seeded 10th in the 400 individual medley (4:54.24).
Costella is seeded 28th in the 800 free (8:556.04) and Engan is seeded 38th with a personal best time of 9:58.84 when she won the 1,000-yard freestyle at the Far Western Short Course Championships.
In winning that event, Engan beat the rookie of the meet from last year's nationals. But that was a short course meet in a 25-meter pool and she'll be swimming in a 50-meter pool at nationals.
"Jamie was just absolutely crushing her on the turns," said Tigershark coach Jim Puleo about the confrontation at the Far Western meet. "She's a physically strong person."
Puleo said technique is more important than conditioning in short course meets while conditioning is more important than technique in long course meets.
"I think that long course and short course swimming are essentially two different sports," Puleo said.
Engan's weakness is conditioning, Puleo said. But Puleo said Engan has worked hard in that area.
"I think she could get out with anybody," Puleo said. "It's whether or not she can hold on in the back half."
Engan said her goal is to negative split - in which she would swim the last half of her race faster than the first half - "or at least come close. I don't want a big drop off between the first half and the second half. Sometimes I die at the end."
Puleo said he's pointed out to Engan that the Olympic-caliber swimmers are able to negative split.
"If she were to even split, I would be happy," said Puleo about Engan swimming the last half of her race as fast as the first half. "She's training real well right now. The key here is to just not get the jitters at her first nationals and just have confidence in herself."
Among the training techniques Puleo has had for Engan is having her swim the 400 against Kiel Costella, who will attend Villanova this year. Engan and Costella would swim the first 200, Costella would take the next 100 off, and then Costella would resume to swim against Engan for the last 100. "You have to play little mental games," Puleo said.
Costella is seeded 21st in the 1,500 free, an event in which she's a two-time national champion. Engan is seeded 41st in the event. Engan has a goal to place in the top 16 in the 800 and 1,500 freestyles. Engan will time trial in the 400 free and 400 I.M. as well.
Still trying to adjust to a new stroke, Costella struggled at the Olympic Trials. She will also swim in the 400 free where she's seeded 35th. "I just want her to get up and race," Puleo said.
Julie also struggled at the trials where she was hoping to qualify for the 800 free relay with her performance in the 200 free. In addition, Julie will swim in the 50 free where she's seeded 22nd (26.58). Kate and Julie will swim in the 400 medley and 400 and 800 free relays for Reno Aquatics.
"I'm going in with the attitude of just having a good time," Julie said. "Maybe I can swim personal bests. Really I'm just going to unwind from the summer I guess."
Julie said this may be her last competitive meet. "I have mixed feelings," she said. "It looks like I might retire from swimming this year after 16 years of swimming."
Charles Whisnand is the Nevada Appeal Sports Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1214.