5 Williams Swimmers to Compete at U.S. Swimming Olympic Trials

The CenturyLink Center, site of the 2016 US Olympic Trials
The CenturyLink Center, site of the 2016 US Olympic Trials

OMAHA, NE -- Every four years the US Olympic Committee and USA Swimming host a selection meet that determines which swimmers will represent the United States at the Olympic Games. Among those in the sport, the event is often called the 'Super Bowl of swimming.' And for the one week of passionate, patriotic and heart-wrenching racing at the US Olympic Trials, it really does feel like our niche sport is at the center of the competitive universe. 

There are five swimmers from Williams College who posted a qualifying time good enough to be invited to the meet. That's an impressive number from a Division III school, even from the perennially strong program at Williams. Not one of the other 10 colleges in the NESCAC conference qualified a swimmer, male or female (as of the 6/14 published qualifiers list, found here).  

In comparison to Williams at previous Olympic Trials, this group of five qualifiers represents the deep talent and continuing growth of the program. During coach Steve Kuster's tenure up to now, there have been four Olympic Trials qualifiers. 

At the last Trials in 2012, Williams was represented by Caroline Wilson, Logan Todhunter and Paul Dyrkacz. All three of those athletes were DIII NCAA Champions during their careers at Williams. At the 2008 Trials Eph-woman Lindsay Payne made her mark by finishing seventh overall in the 100 Breaststroke. She too was a DIII NCAA Champion, and her NCAA record in the 200 Breaststroke stood until earlier this year. Payne also competed at the 2004 Trials before coming to Williams. 

Not to be forgotten is coach Kuster himself, who in 1992 competed at the event in the 200 Butterfly, representing the Wilton YMCA.



The 5 Competing In Omaha


Emma Waddell '18 Megan Pierce '17 Ben Lin '17 Alex McCarter '16 Thad Ricotta '15
Undoubtedly these five are a special group for representing the program and accomplishing their individual goals. "I would have to say that they all love to race and compete," said Kuster. "When it comes down to it they are just racers." 


Emma Waddell is the youngest of the group and will enter her junior year this Fall. She is a Biology major from Bangor, Maine--and she's one of only three people from her home state to qualify for the Olympic Trials. Her qualification time in the 100 Butterfly of 1:00.91 was swum on May 9th. Her school records include the 50 Freestyle, 100 Freestyle, 50 Butterfly, 200 Medley Relay and 200 Freestyle Relay. She is a five time individual NCAA All-American and in 2015 she was DIII National Champion in the 100 Butterfly.

Megan Pierce enters her senior year in the Fall. Pierce is a Psychology major from Wayland, Massachusetts and is an avid New England Patriots fan. She will compete in the 400 IM thanks to her qualifying swim of 4:54.40 from March 2015. An impressive 8 times she has earned NCAA All-American status as an individual. Twice she has been DIII National Champion in the 400 IM (2014, 2016). 

Megan Pierce swims the third leg of a 400 IM


Ben Lin is a classmate of Pierce's and will return for his senior year in the Fall. Lin is a Mathematics and Psychology double major from Short Hills, New Jersey who served as a Junior Adviser to the Class of 2019 during the past year. He has qualified for the 100 Backstroke at the Olympic Trials after posting a 56.44 in March 2015. He holds the school records in the 50 Backstroke, 100 Backstroke, 200 Backstroke, 100 Butterfly, 200 Medley Relay and 400 Medley Relay. He is a six time individual NCAA All-American and three time DIII National Champion in the 100 Backstroke (2015), 400 Medley Relay (2015), and 200 Medley Relay (2016). 

Alex McCarter graduated from Williams College this Spring as an English major. Hailing from New York, New York, he lives with his sister, father and mother--the last of whom was also an Olympic Trials qualifying swimmer. Like Lin, McCarter qualified in the 100 Backstroke; his time of 57.05 was swum on June 18, two days before USA Swimming stopped accepting time submissions. Alex is a part of three school records on the 200 Medley Relay, 200 Freestyle Relay and 400 Freestyle Relay. This year he was an individual NCAA All-American and a DIII National Champion on the 200 Medley Relay. 

Thad Ricotta is the oldest of the group, having graduated Williams in 2015. He holds a degree in History with a concentration in Leadership Studies. Thad is from and continues to reside in Houston, Texas, where these days he will occasionally swim with a masters program and will sporadically compete in a triathlon. He qualified for the 200 Butterfly in March 2015 in 2:01.99. Thad still holds school records in the 200 Butterfly, 400 Medley Relay, 400 Freestyle Relay and 800 Freestyle Relay. He was a four time individual All-American and a DIII National Champion in the 400 Medley Relay his senior year. 

About the U.S. Olympic Trials

Left, the 2008 Trials; top right, Thad Ricotta; bottom right, Alex McCarter.


"This is so different than our collegiate championship meets," said Kuster about the experience. "At those [collegiate] meets people could be swimming upwards of 12 or more times in 3 or 4 days. At Trials they have one shot at their races."

There are near 1800 athletes who will compete at the Olympic Trials from June 26-July 3, 2016. In each event only the top two swimmers will secure their spot on the U.S. team (in select events additional swimmers can earn a spot as a relay alternate). This is the third time that the CenturyLink Center in downtown Omaha, Nebraska will play host. 

The experience is unlike any other in swimming. All week long the sold out event will see crowds of 14,000 and be broadcasted nationally by NBC. Kuster wants his swimmers to appreciate the moment. "For most people the opportunity to swim at Trials is a once in a lifetime thing.  I want them to take it all in and make the most of it."

NBC Broadcast Schedule


You can follow along as these Ephs represent their families, their team, their school and their country through the scheduled broadcast dates/times above. This writer will recount and recap their experiences from Omaha at the completion of the competition. 


--Colin Hogan '17

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