W&L’s Thetford to compete at Olympic Trials next summer

Tommy Thetford, ‘18, discusses his rigorous training regimen and his anticipation of the 2016 Olympic Swimming Trials

Mac Trammell

Washington and Lee sophomore Tommy Thetford worked hard over the summer, but not in an office, nor for monetary gain.

Rather than work at a summer internship for his major, Thetford instead pursued a different passion: trying to qualify for next summer’s Olympic Trials.

At a sectional meet in Columbus, Ohio, he posted a 50m freestyle time of 23.15, well under the Trials cut time of 23.29.

“That’s the reason why I swim,” Thetford said. “That feeling of accomplishment you get when you look up and see that time, it’s like ‘that’s all my hard work right there on that board and I can see it.’”

He trained with fellow W&L swimmer Will McMurtry throughout the summer. He said he put himself through two-a-days, and sometimes three-a-days, in order to achieve his final goal.

“Besides the fact that it was more rigorous, usually when I train here [at W&L], I train for very sprint-based [workouts],” Thetford said. “It’s a lot of short-burst workouts. But where I was training, I was actually the only sprinter on this team. So I was split off occasionally to do my own thing, which was tough training alone.

“But most of the time I was training with mid-distance to long-distance swimmers,” he continued. “And in practice, those kind of swimmers are much, much more competitive… I think that challenged me and pushed me the entire summer.”

Thetford said that he had to pay strict attention to his diet and sleep schedule in order to be in peak physical condition during the summer.

Five to seven weeks before the sectional event, Thetford picked up a bad cough, which a doctor later said was walking pneumonia.

About three weeks before the meet, he began to “taper,” which means he started to back off on both the number and intensity of his workouts in order to rest his body for the big event.

He travelled to Ohio State University for the four-day competition. Thetford said that there were over 1,000 swimmers in attendance. The Columbus meet was one of six sectional meets on the Central Zone, and one of 21 sectional meets in the United States.

On the first day of competition, he swam in his event, the 50 free. He missed the cut time, and tried again the next day in the 200 free. His strategy was to swim the first 50 m. of the race like he did the day before. As long as he posted any 50 m. time in any race under the 23.29 threshold, he could qualify. Unfortunately, he came up short again in the 200.

Thetford then took a day off for rest and waited for the 100 m. free on the final day of competition.

“I was looking at it like I was going to get it,” he said of his pre-meet mentality. “There’s nothing that’s going to stop me from getting the cut.”

He raced out to the wall, the halfway point of the race, touched, saw his time, and then took it easy the rest of the race.

“I knew,” he said. “I touched, and I saw the clock, and I saw my split, and I just turned around and floated back on my back.

Thetford will be swimming against some of the best swimmers in the U.S. at the Olympic Trials, including Nathan Adrian, whom Thetford believes is the nation’s best sprinter, Michael Phelps, and Ryan Lochte. The Trials will be held in Omaha, Nebraska next summer. He said qualifying for the meet is a milestone in his life.

“[When] I looked up and I saw it…it was just the best feeling I’ve experienced in a long time.”