BILLINGS — The country’s best swimmers will have their one of the biggest dreams realized over the next eight days at the USA Swimming Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska. Four Montanans are in the field, including two from the Billings Aquatic Club.
“It’s a dream come true, honestly, because the BAC and (director) Sean (Marshall), they’re the ones who brought me up into this, really got me into it, got me into a good college," said Ethan Harder, who just finished his sophomore year at the University of Texas.
“It’s been a huge part of my life for the last seven years," added BAC swimmer Peter Thompson. "That’s what I’ve been doing, and it’s obviously helped build my future and where I’m going.”
Harder and Thompson’s futures are about to get a little brighter. The two finally get their chance to swim at the biggest meet in the country after a year-long wait.
“Waiting around for that time has been tough," Thompson admitted. "We were all jacked up and ready for it last year and that kind of got pulled out from under us.”
The wait has been even longer for Harder, who will compete in three events: the 100-meter backstoke, 200-meter backstroke and 200-meter butterfly.
“Ever since I knew about it, I’ve been wanting to swim here," he said. "Especially after going and watching in 2016, I said I need to swim here. It’ll be one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
There’s been a lot of competition for that title recently. Harder’s Texas Longhorns won their 15th national championship back in March, validating his choice to leave home.
For an NCAA-best 1️⃣5️⃣th time in program history, we will LIGHT THE TOWER!!!
2021 NCAA CHAMPIONS pic.twitter.com/4ZlUyqrK4o
— Texas Men's Swimming & Diving (@TexasMSD) March 28, 2021
“Once you get here, every single guy, we all just push each other to our limits and it pays off," Harder said of the competition level within his college team.
Thompson, who will swim the 1,500-meter freestyle at the Trials, is following Harder's road map. He’ll start at the University of Virginia in the fall, a 2,000-mile trip the BAC has prepared him for.
“Family is huge for me, and that’s going to be tough," Thompson said. "They all live around here, so being that far away from them is going to be new and different, but a lot of those (BAC) meets and camps were without my parents and away from home. So I think that’s helped me get ready to know that feeling and what it’s going to be like.”
But for at least one more meet, the BAC family will be together. Several members of the club are making the trip to Omaha to cheer on the pair.
"I didn’t know about it. That’s a surprise in the last couple weeks," Thompson said. "It’s going to be a great to have some of those families out there and familiar faces in the stands.”
There will be about a million more rooting back home.
Below is the schedule for Harder and Thompson's events:
Monday, June 14 - 100m backstroke (Harder) - Prelims followed by finals
Tuesday, June 15 - 200m butterfly (Harder) - Prelims followed by semifinals
Wednesday, June 16 - 200m butterfly (Harder) - Finals
Thursday, June 17 - 200m backstroke (Harder) - Prelims followed by semifinals
Friday, June 18 - 200m backstroke (Harder) - Finals
Saturday, June 19 - 1500m freestyle (Thompson) - Prelims
Sunday, June 20 - 1500m freestyle (Thompson) - Finals
Visit USA Swimming for more information about the Trials.