Bridget McGann ‘so excited’ to swim in U.S. Olympic Trials

Mendota graduate will compete in 100 breaststroke Sunday on Peacock

Mendota senior Bridget McGann stands on the podium after placing second in the 100-meter breaststroke at the National Club Swimming Association Summer Championships with a time of 1:09.81, which qualified her to compete in the 2024 USA Swimming Olympic Trials in June in Indianapolis.

Some days, Bridget McGann thinks of her next swimming competition as just like any other meet.

Other days, she admits, she’s “freaking out.”

McGann’s next swim meet certainly isn’t any other meet.

The recent Mendota graduate will swim in the U.S. Olympic Trials on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis before one of the largest crowds to ever attend an indoor swimming meet.

The Trials begin Saturday, and McGann will compete in preliminary heats of the 100-meter breaststroke on Sunday.

Sunday’s preliminaries begin at 11 a.m., and McGann expects to swim midday.

“It’s really hard because I’ve never been to a meet this big before, so I kind of don’t know how to process it,” McGann said. “Some days I’m freaking out like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to the Olympic Trials,’ and other days it doesn’t faze me, and I’m like, ‘Oh, it’s just another meet.’ I try to think of it as just another swim meet. I think, ‘You’ve swam probably over 1,000 meets before, just treat it like every other one. It’s going to be OK.’

“I try not to think about the fact that it’s in a football stadium. That’s kind of nerve-racking. I just keep reassuring myself that I’ve swam the 100 breast before. This is a 50-meter pool just like every other 50-meter pool I’ve been in. It just happens to be in a football stadium.”

Three temporary pools – two 50-meter pools and a 25-meter pool – have been installed at Lucas Oil as it becomes the first football stadium to host the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials.

“I’ve wanted to go to the Olympic Trials since I started swimming and the fact the year I go they put it in a football stadium, I’m actually so excited.”

—  Bridget McGann

According to an article in USA Today, organizers are expecting to hit the 30,000 spectator capacity for Saturday’s opening day, which would break the world record for attendance at an indoor swimming meet, which is 25,000 at the 1936 Olympics.

“I can’t even express how excited I am,” McGann said. “I’ve wanted to go to the Olympic Trials since I started swimming and the fact the year I go they put it in a football stadium, I’m actually so excited.”

McGann doesn’t expect to be bothered by the size of the crowd, which will include her father, Patrick, her mother, Kimberly, and brother, Liam, and teammates from the Academy Bullets Swim Club out of Aurora.

“Some bigger meets I try to find my dad in the stands because he goes to every single meet,” McGann said. “Obviously at this meet, I probably won’t find him. I know there’s going to be so many people there, but I don’t really look up, so I don’t think I will be fazed by it in any way.”

She’s also trying not to be fazed by swimming on national TV.

Sunday’s preliminary heats will be shown on Peacock. If McGann is one of 16 swimmers to advance to the semifinals, she’ll swim on NBC on Sunday night.

The eight-woman finals are Monday night on NBC.

“Typically my swim meets are just on YouTube, so the fact you can go on a streaming service to watch me, that’s crazy,” McGann said. “I try not to think about it. I just think of it like I’m being streamed on YouTube.”

McGann planned to swim Thursday morning before traveling to Indianapolis for check in.

She’ll get to swim in the competition pool for practice Friday morning.

On meet day, McGann said she’ll get to sleep in more than she does for a typical meet due to the later start time for TV.

She’ll do her dynamic warmup, some exercises with a resistance band and yoga before doing her in the pool warmup ahead of her prelim heat.

McGann enters with the 46th-best time in the 100 breaststroke at 1:09.81, which she swam at National Club Swimming Association Summer Championships in July.

“I just want to go into it with an open mind and compete and do the best that I can,” McGann said about goals for the Trials. “It’s just such a big meet that going to the Trials itself is already nerve-racking a little bit, so I think if I just go in with an open mind and trusting the process it kind of lifts a weight off my shoulders because I am very hard on myself. I think if I go in with an open mind, I’ll feel a lot better and less nervous before my race.”

McGann’s process involved intense training through the winter with a short break in March.

“Winter training was definitely really tough, so it was nice to take a short little break in March before we really focused in on the Trials,” McGann said. “The past week and a half is when we started to taper, which is just a rest period. It’s just doing a lot of sprints with a lot of recovery to get our bodies used to racing and adjusting out bodies to know how to sprint our races. I’ve been doing that for the past week and a half, which is really fun. It’s always fun to do race pace.”

McGann also was lifting heavy during the winter and through most of March, April and May before recently scaling back.

“I started cutting back and doing a lot of lightweight work and a lot of explosive movements to get my body rested and prepared,” McGann said.

McGann limited her competition schedule as she prepared for the Trials. She swam in the U.S. Open and the Winter Junior Championships in December, the TYR Pro Swim Series in Knoxville, Tennessee, in January and the TYR 18 & under Spring Cup in early May along with a few smaller meets.

“For the most part it’s just been focusing on training to get my body prepared the best it can be because with meet weekends I typically cut back on lifting so I don’t feel too fatigued for the meet and sometimes the practice schedule is changed a little bit for meets,” McGann said.

McGann is happy with where she is after her Trials training.

“Just overall with it being summer and I’m done with school, I think that naturally just makes me happier, but the fact that Trials have finally come, I’m just so excited and so happy with the place I’m in,” said McGann, who is signed to swim at the University of Wisconsin. “I’m doing very well in practice, better than I typically would when I’m tapering, so that makes me more and more excited.”

McGann isn’t the only Academy Bullet swimmer who will swim at the Trials.

Academy Bullet teammate Elizabeth Nawrocki also will compete in the 100 breaststroke, while teammate Brayden Capen will swim in the 200 backstroke Wednesday. McGann plans to stay at the Trials to watch Capen compete.

“It’s a really big deal,” McGann said about having teammates also competing. “Typically Bullets send one or two swimmers [to the Trials], so to have three is pretty cool.

“They’re my best friends. I have so much fun with them at practice, so to be able to travel to this meet with them is going to be really fun.”

McGann won’t be the only swimmer with local ties competing in the Trials.

Regan Smith, whose mother, Bonnie Smith, is from the Illinois Valley and who still has family in Lostant, is the top seed in the 100 backstroke, 200 butterfly and 200 backstroke. Smith, who is from Lakeville, Minnesota, won silver medals in the 200 butterfly and 400 medley relay and a bronze in the 100 backstroke in the 2020 Olympics.

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