Mayo grad Caflisch goes from spectator to participant in Olympic Swimming Trials

Mayo grad Erin Caflisch has made big strides in two seasons with the University of Minnesota women's swim team. This season, she turned in times that qualified her for the U.S. Olympic Trials in two events.

Erin Caflisch got a look at the Olympic Swimming Trials four years ago as a 16-year-old. They were held at Quest Center in Omaha, Neb.

That was the summer before her junior year at Mayo High School. The Trials, with the biggest names in her sport participating, left quite an impression. And she certainly wasn't the only one impressed. The 2008 Trials went down as the greatest swimming spectacle ever held on U.S. soil.

"There were a bunch of world records broken in that meet," Caflisch said. "Plus, the venue was awesome, and there were something like 12,000 people who had come to watch."

Four years later, the Trials are once again upon us. They begin Monday. And once again, they're being held at the Quest Center in Omaha.

But there is one key difference, at last from Caflisch's perspective. This time, instead of watching the Trials, she will be participating in them.


The incoming University of Minnesota junior and swim-team member has qualified in the 50- and 100-meter freestyles. She'll compete in the 100 Friday, the 50 on July 1.

"It's an honor to be at this meet," Caflisch said. "But I want to have fun, and just see what I can do. I'm ecstatic to be going."



Caflisch hasn't just come a considerable ways since spectating at the meet as a high school junior. The physical therapy major has made massive progress since joining the University of Minnesota swim team two years ago.

That goes for her time in and out of the water.

"My freshman year was a little bit rough," said Caflisch, whose family resides in the Rochester bedroom community of Chester. "The new environment, being away from home for the first time, and all of the decisions you have to make. It's the real world and it was a little bit hard."

One year later, though, Caflisch is sounding as serene as she does motivated. She's hit her stride.


One great measure of that is her swim exploits. Caflisch has gone from being a complete afterthought two years ago as a Big Ten swimmer, to one of the conference's more up-and-coming competitors.

She landed fifth in the 100 freestyle at this spring's Big Ten meet at the University of Iowa, and seventh in the 50 freestyle. She also swam legs on the Gopher' 4 x 200 and 4 x 200 relay teams, both of them finishing third.

All of that led to what's been the high point so far in her swimming career, with her team winning the Big Ten championship. It was the first time in four years that Minnesota had accomplished that.

"The atmosphere at that meet was great," Caflisch said. "That was the most fun I've ever had being on a team."

Caflisch has had one more obvious high point. That happened in November at her home pool at the University of Minnesota. That's when she turned in qualifying times for the Olympic Trials in the 50 and 100 freestyles.

It's got her thinking about making the Olympic team this summer right? Well, actually, no.  There are oodles of swimmers who have qualified for the Trials. Caflisch says that includes around 16 from her Gophers women's team.

"I think there is something like 1,800 swimmers in this meet, and about 30 of them go to the Olympics," she said. "I've never been to a national meet like this one. My goals is to get some experience, swim fast and have fun. Actually, the 'have fun' part comes first."




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