By Moses Leos III
Ever since his freshman year of high school, Dripping Springs High graduate and UIL state swimming gold medalist Micah Slaton has dreamt of going to the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha, Neb.
It was a dream fostered when he watched the event on television for the first time in 2012.
“I didn’t know what it was about. I didn’t even know there even was a trial for the Olympics,” Slaton said. “But it was super cool. There were fireworks shooting off from the side of the pool. It was super special for sure.”
Fast forward four years and Slaton, who graduated from Dripping Springs High in June, will see his dream come true as he competes in the 100 and 200-meter butterfly events 2016 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials.
“I’m super excited. It’s been a goal of mine since freshman year,” Slaton said. “It’s been my end goal of my senior year to qualify. It means a lot.”
Slaton’s road to reaching Omaha was a feat accomplished during the final week to meet qualifying times, or cuts.
He made his Olympic Trial cuts at a small age-group meet at the University of Texas at Austin.
Prior to the meet in Austin, Slaton missed the cut during the Atlanta Classic swim meet at Georgia Tech.
With one last chance to get in, Slaton said he returned home, regrouped and rested for a week before hitting the pool.
“I put on a fast suit and had the 200 (meter butterfly) the first day, but didn’t make the cut,” Slaton said. “I then tuned up for the 100-fly the next day, but I went for the (200) and got the cut first.”
Training to reach the cuts meant a focus on weight training, which Slaton said “helped a lot.”
Last year, Slaton said he focused on aerobic and crossfit style body weight training regiments. During the course of 2016, Slaton added in core training, with weight lifting one time a week.
“The heavier lifting once a week helped out with strength,” Slaton said. “The overall difference maker was the lifting.”
Meanwhile, in the pool, Slaton said progression on improving his times continued. Aerobic training helped him “hold faster times on tighter intervals,” Slaton said.
The focus now turns to gearing up for the trials. Slaton said his competition are college swimmers, who are seeded based on their qualifying times.
Leading up to the meet, Slaton said he would increase the intensity of his practices as he fine tunes his starts and turns in the pool.
Keeping focus is also the goal for Slaton, who is going through his three-week resting period prior to the trials.
“Going into big meets when you’re resting, you keep your blinders on and keep focus,” Slaton said. “It’s easy to get caught up on your thoughts and get nervous.”
But Slaton expects to see athletes performing at their best at the event. He also said it would allow him the chance to see how many swimmers handle pressure situations and “doing all the right things they need to do to secure an Olympic spot.”
“No one is guaranteed a spot (on the U.S. Olympic Team), even (Michael) Phelps is not guaranteed a spot,” Slaton said. “There will be a lot of world class athletes at their best. It’s something to learn from for me.”
The chance to compete in what Slaton called the “fastest swim meet in the world” is something he looks forward to. Slaton said nearly every session of the swim meet is sold out.
“It’s nuts, it’s awesome,” Slaton said. “If you ask any anyone that is an Olympian, the U.S. Olympic Trials is as nervewracking, if not more nervewracking, than the Olympics.
But the ability to represent Dripping Springs, where Slaton began his swim career at the Belterra swim complex, was “really cool,” he said.
“Looking back at how far I’ve come, it’s cool to see,” Slaton said. “Looking back and seeing that is a cool experience.”
Micah Slaton at the Olympic Trials