Flames swimmers qualify for Olympic Trials in ISCA Open

Six Lady Flames swimmers delivered outstanding performances in the ISCA Open Nov. 29- Dec. 2, held at the Liberty University Natatorium. Notably, freshman Kamryn Cannings and sophomore Kaycee Cannings secured their spots in the Canadian Olympic Trials and are striving for positions in the U.S. Olympic Trials. Meanwhile, senior Heather Gardner has already qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials.

Kaycee Cannings recorded a time of 59.70 in the 100-meter freestyle final. Her sister, Kamryn Cannings, competed in the 200-meter butterfly and the 100-meter freestyle, ending with incredible times as well. In the 100-meter freestyle final, she secured a 56.38.

“These times are really good for November when I don’t actually need to be this fast until later in the year. So honestly, I’m just super happy with that,” Kamryn Cannings said.

Following her strong outing, she looks forward to what the rest of the season holds.

“We’re just continuing to train throughout December. We’ll have a little break for Christmas, and then we’ll be here, just us on campus, and we’ll just train super hard. Then we’ll have conferences and NCAAs before I head back to Canada for Olympic Trials and then hopefully Paris 2024,” Kamryn Cannings said. “I’m hoping to make the Olympic team and also just to win the conference again. The sixth title would be awesome.”

Her teammate, Gardner, swam a 2:41.52 in the 200-meter breaststroke, securing 2nd place in the prelims. Likewise, senior Genna Joyce recorded a 2:38.31 in the 200-meter breaststroke, taking home 3rd place.

“We had some fantastic swims and had a couple new team records in the long course,” Lady Flames Head Coach Jake Shellenberger said. “One of the different things about this meet, among many, is the Olympic format. What we’re seeing here is a 50-meters-long course; they call it the long-course format. This is not what we swim in college at the NCAA level; we swim in yards, 25-yard courses. This is the international Olympic standard, 50 meters. We have a separate set of team records for what we call long-course meters. Kamryn Cannings set team records in the 100 fly and the 100 freestyle long-course meters.”

Over the upcoming months, the team will look to diligently put in the effort required to meet its lofty goal of Paris 2024.

“Sometimes as coaches, we try to overcomplicate swimming or diving for that matter, or sport in general, and there’s a lot of tips and tricks and different hacks you can do; and there’s new technology, but a lot of it goes back to the basics,” Shellenberger said. “Are we sleeping well? Are we eating well? Are we working hard? Are we going to give maximum effort?”

But while training for the chance to represent their country is a motivating factor, there are numerous goals on Shellenberger’s mind.

“All of our training, all of our preparation is geared toward winning another conference title and also qualifying people for the NCAA Championship meet,” Shellenberger said. “We also are keeping in mind someone like Kamryn Cannings, who was also training for the Canadian Olympic Trials. And then we have Heather Gardner, who last week at our midseason invite got a trials cut to go to the USA Trials meet. So there’s a lot to balance with not just wanting to do well in the college season at our conference meet. But then you have summer meets to look forward to after that.”

The Liberty Flames will compete next against Gardner-Webb in Boiling Springs, North Carolina Jan. 11.

Carlson is a sports reporter for the Liberty Champion

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