Next summer, the cheers of “Let’s go Hutch!” will temporarily change to “USA! USA!” for sophomore Grace Hanson. On Sunday, the Hutchinson swimmer received an invitation to the 2020 USA Olympic Team Trials in Omaha next June.
“I’m very excited about that,” Hanson said. “I haven’t really thought much about it yet, but I’m just excited overall to even have the opportunity to even go.”
Hanson earned her shot at the Olympics with “one of the best performances” she’s ever had in the 50 freestyle during the Minnesota Long Course Senior State Championship in July. She posted a time of 25.98 to beat the Olympic trials time standard by 0.01 seconds.
“I looked up at the board and I was kind of confused, because I was just like, I don’t think that’s the time,” she said. “I looked at it and I didn’t really process it until they announced it, and then I was like, oh, wow.
“My sister was crying. I just looked up and I saw that. They were all just very excited for me. My friend Hailey came up and gave me a hug, and that was probably one of the greatest feelings. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Beating the time standard had been on her radar since last summer, when her split in the 200 freestyle relay made her want to push to qualify. Hutchinson girls swimming and diving coach Rory Fairbanks kept tabs on her performance and has witnessed firsthand her growth since her first days as a Tigershark.
“In seventh grade, I wouldn’t have said she’d make it for the 2020 (Olympic trials),” he said. “But knowing the speed that she had right away and her potential for growth ... somewhere down the road it definitely wouldn’t have been a surprise. But to do it just a couple years later is a little bit of a surprise.”
Former Hutchinson boys swimmer Cole Bateman previously qualified for the 2016 Olympic Team Trials when he was a collegiate swimmer at Eastern Michigan University, but Hanson is the first high school swimmer to reach that stage during Fairbanks’ tenure.
“(I’m) excited for her,” Fairbanks said. “I knew that was her goal this year. She was close last year and she really wanted to hit that. It’s good to knock that one off her plate, and now have a whole year to actually train for that meet, rather than trying to achieve it right before the meet.”
The Olympic Swimming Team Trials are June 21-28, 2020, at CHI Health Center Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska. The 50 freestyle prelims and semifinals are Saturday, June 27, and the finals are Sunday, June 28.
“I’m excited,” Hanson said. “I’m not really that nervous just because I want to be there for the experience and not necessarily getting the best times or anything.”
With more opportunities to qualify, Hanson hopes to add another event or two to her Olympic trials lineup. She’s aiming to snag spots in the 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly.
With more than 10 months before her shot at the Olympics, Hanson does not have plans to do any special training or avoid participating in her spring sport of track and field. Instead, she looks forward to spending time with her teammates as they prepare for the high school season.
“I want to do good (at the Olympic trials), but I don’t want to do anything other than train with my team,” she said. “I love my high school team, so I want to stay with them.”