By SARAH DOOLITTLE, Four Points News
Steiner Ranch resident Kendall Shields, a 15-year-old rising junior at Vandegrift High School, will compete in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials being held in Omaha, Neb. this week.
Shields is attending the event, which runs from Jun. 26 – Jul. 3, with her family and eight other swimmers from her team, the Austin Swim Club out of Westlake. Coach Brendan Hansen, an Olympic medalist and world record holder in swimming, leads the team.
Shields is eligible to attend as a result of exceeding national time standards and will compete against other teens and adults in two events, the 100 meter and 200 meter backstroke. The first and second place winners at the trials will join the Olympic team
“That’s not quite a realistic goal for me this year,” explains Shields. “To put it in perspective, I’d basically have to beat (four-time Olympic gold medalist) Missy Franklin in order to actually go to the Olympics. But just to qualify for the meet and get to race there is just really a big accomplishment.”
That’s not to say she won’t be fierce competition. Shields mom Lisa, not wanting to brag, admits that, “It always feels awkward to say it, but she’s top ten in the country in her event for her age.”
Competing at this level is not without sacrifices. “It is a lot,” concedes Shields. She has nine two hour practices a week with only Friday afternoons off for a total of about 22 hours a week. This means frequently doing homework in the car. “I’m constantly trying to get work done.”
Besides swimming, Shields does a lot of what she calls “dry land” training, also known as going to the gym, weight lifting and cross training. All her hard work shows in her massive arms and chronic goggle tan.
To Shields, all the effort is more than worth it. “I just love the camaraderie of it. I love my teammates so much… We get to train together every day. We get to push each other… It’s just so rewarding.”
“I love swimming because it’s one of the sports that’s not subjective at all. The hard work you put in is clearly shown in how you swim… It’s just so fun,” she said.
This 15-year-old, who admits to thriving on competition, also admits to a few pre-swim rituals.
Before every swim she prays, performs a series of stretches and slaps her arms and legs. “I have my routine that I go through. It’s just something I’ve done for a long time.”
Shields doesn’t anticipate going to the Olympics this year, but she is hoping to swimming at this year’s Junior Nationals, which is an event for the top 18-and-under swimmers in the country.
Long-term, she hopes be recruited to swim at a Division I college
None of which, Shields knows, would be possible without the support of her mom, dad, coach and teammates. She’s grateful, too, for her friends. “They are so supportive,” attending local meets, cheering her on and understanding when she has to put swimming first.
“As a parent, I feel like watching your child go all in on something, no matter what it is, is a really inspiring thing to see,” beams Shields’s mom. “(We’re) super proud of her… for having a dream and going all in.”
For younger swimmers on their way up, Shields has advice that personifies her own love of the sport. “Keep it fun, you’re supposed to enjoy it. Don’t lose your love and passion for the sport. Remember why you started it in the first place, what made you fall in love with it as a kid.”
She adds with a grin, “And work hard! Because that’s how you get faster.”
Abbott swims at Olympic trials
Local, long distance swimmer Taylor Abbott is at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials being held in Omaha, Neb. this week.
Abbott, 18, is a Glenlake resident who recently graduated from Cedar Park High School and received a scholarship to swim at the University of Tennessee.
His mom Shawn Abbott says that he swims the 1500 freestyle at the trials on Saturday. The trials run from Jun. 26 – Jul. 3.
“From here he goes to train in Tennessee for a week, then straight to Hoorn, Netherlands for Open Water World’s,” she said.