Published: Jun 23, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jun 22, 2012 12:37 PM
In what will be a bittersweet finale for them both, Chapel Hill High School alumnae Carly Smith and Marie Pesacreta will be taking part in the U.S. Olympic Trials, which begin Wednesday in Omaha.
They are the only local swimmers competing in the Trials. East Chapel Hill’s Nick McCrory is competing in the U.S. Diving Trials in Washington state.
Both Smith and Pesacreta are Tar Heels born and bred. Both swam on state championship teams at CHHS before joining the varsity program at the University of North Carolina, and both stay in Chapel Hill to work as coaches on teams in the Summer Swim League.
Both Smith and Pesacreta swam as kids in the Summer Swim League, and with year-round clubs as well – Smith with the N.C. Aquatic Club and Pesacreta with the Tar Heel Aquatic Team.
And both figure this will be their last trip to the U.S. Trials.
For Pesacreta, who graduated from UNC in May, this will be her last competitive meet, period, she says.
“This is quite a good meet to end my career on,” Pesacreta said. “I’m super excited about it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Pesacreta will be entered in the 200 individual medley. She qualified for the Trials last summer with a time of 2:19.52 in the national championships.
“It’s all kind of bittersweet. I’ve been swimming since I was five years old,” Pesacreta said. “It’s been quite a long ride. You have to give up a whole lot to be a competitive swimmer, things that other students and even other athletes who aren’t swimmers get to do — going abroad, summer internships in another city, a lot of stuff.”
Pesacreta, who earned a degree in business from UNC, works as an editor with a new company in Chapel Hill called Filmlab.
“I really enjoyed my collegiate career. I’ve just decided that the trials represent a good time to end it and call it a career,” she said. “I’m going to be more focused on my job and on my professional career.”
But Pesacreta still keeps a toe in the water, so to speak. She coaches the Chapel Hill Tennis Club Penguins in the Chapel Hill Summer Swim League. Smith coaches swimmers on the Farm/Meadowmont-YMCA team.
Smith has had limited time in the pool after she underwent surgery on her ankle to remove some problematic scar tissue around a tendon and missed the entire UNC varsity season.
“Essentially this is my first meet of the year,” Smith said, “And this probably will be the last time I go to the Olympic Trials. After this, I’m going to be more focused on college swimming and what I’ve always wanted to do in that.”
Smith, who reached NCAA All-American status as a sophomore, will have two years of eligibility left after red-shirting this year. But she considers this her last trip to the Trials, where she will be competing in the 200 individual medley with a qualifying time of 2:18.75 set last summer. She’s also in the 100 backstroke with a 1:02.5 and the 200 backstroke, her best event, with a 2:13.89.
Smith’s times in both backstrokes rate in the top 50 nationally, and, as she says, “anything can happen.” But she remains realistic about her chances.
Only the top two swimmers in each event make it onto the U.S. national team.
“You do want to think that you have a chance, but it’s really hard,” Smith said. “Considering my surgery, I just have to keep this all in perspective. I’ll be serious about trying, but I know that this is not do or die for me.”
Smith’s made her first appearance to the Olympic trials four years ago, when she was a junior at Chapel Hill High School.
“That first time at the trials, I was super-overwhelmed,” Smith said. “I was a little overcome by everything around me. This time, that experience will be to my advantage.
“I plan on going there and just having a good time, being with my teammates, doing my best and enjoying the experience.”