Washington State doesn’t have an Olympic-sized pool — the NCAA uses 25-yard pools instead of a 50-meter long course — so Cougar junior Taylor McCoy supplemented her training for the Olympic Trials by dragging buckets in the water to slow down her speed and simulate the longer distance.
The training paid off as McCoy qualified for her second straight Olympic Trials in the 200-meter backstroke earlier this month despite facing a two-second faster qualifying standard.
McCoy swam a personal-record time of 2 minutes, 14.46 seconds to finish third at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Clovis, Calif., beating the qualifying time by 0.2 seconds.
“It’s super exciting,” McCoy said. “The time got (two seconds) faster this year. I was confident, but not overconfident because I knew I had to drop a lot more time.”
Going into the finals, McCoy knew she’d have speedy swimmers on either side of her — Cal’s Isabelle Stadden and All-American Sydney Pickrem. She used the other swimmers to help gauge her position in the race.
“I knew it was going to be a good time, but I didn’t know what it was going to be,” McCoy said. “The people on either side of me ended up having really good races — they got first and second.
“One girl came in with some crazy fast time, so I knew she was going to go out fast, so I just tried to stay with her and also swim my own race.”
A 2017 Pullman High graduate, McCoy has been swimming on the Palouse since her parents put her in swimming lessons at around 8 years old.
She liked it so much that she repeated the same lessons multiple times before her parents suggested she join a club.
McCoy went on to become a seven-time individual state champion for the Greyhounds, including four straight titles in the 100 backstroke.
“I really liked the backstroke since I was really little,” McCoy said. “It just kind of progressed into being my best stroke. It just kind of happened. I worked it more than the other strokes and I love it.”
McCoy first qualified for the Olympic Trials in 2016. She finished five seconds off the Olympic qualifying time in a stacked event won by decorated Olympian Missy Franklin.
This time, McCoy is faster, more experienced and has longer to prepare for the trials, which begin June 21, 2020 — nearly a year away.
“Last time I qualified in December, so this time I have an extra six months to know I’m going and keep training with the team over the summer,” she said.
It also allows another full year of swimming in the Pac-12 Conference, which has had Olympians like Cal’s Franklin and Stanford’s Katie Ledecky.
McCoy broke out in the conference last season when she was named Pac-12 athlete of the week in January after she posted three individual wins against No. 14 Arizona, making her the first Cougar to earn Pac-12 Swimmer of the Week in program history.
“It’s been so cool to be able to race in the Pac-12,” McCoy said. “It’s really cool to be able to race Olympians on a consistent basis. I’ve always loved swimming, so it’s been super nice to be able to do that against world-class athletes here in the Pac-12.”