Local swimmer goes from middle school to Olympic trials
by Staff Writer
HUNTERSVILLE – Alyssa Marsh will be the youngest swimmer representing SwimMAC Carolina at the Olympic trials in Omaha, Neb. starting June 25.
She’s only 14, an eighth grader at Pine Lake Prep, but her aquatic genes, family support, determination and love of swimming helped her complete the 100-yard butterfly in 1:01:97. The time qualified her for the Olympic trials by 0.02 seconds.
Alyssa didn’t make the qualifying time at her first meet in Greensboro on a recent Friday afternoon, but her dad drove her back that Sunday to see if she could do it in a time trial.
David Marsh is the director of coaching for SwimMAC Carolina. He previously coached at Auburn University where he led the Tigers to a combined 10 NCAA championships, along with individual, relay and All-American honors.
Kristin Marsh, Alyssa’s mother, swam in college, and David Marsh says Alyssa got her mom’s smarts, as well as her stroke. The Marsh women swim butterfly, while backstroke is David Marsh’s forte.
But her athletic parents haven’t pressured Alyssa in the pool.
“A year ago, I wasn’t allowed to go to every practice a week so I wouldn’t get burned out,” Alyssa said. “My parents won’t push us into anything hard. … and school comes first.”
But she won’t shy away from doing her dad proud.
“He’s a big coach,” Alyssa said. “I kind of want to follow in his footsteps.”
Alyssa started swimming competitively at the age of 6. She also competed in gymnastics at White Lightning in Huntersville until recently. Gymnastics was great for her swimming she said, building muscle and breaking up her routine.
“I still love swimming because of that,” Alyssa said.
Right now Alyssa practices at the Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatic Center pool under coach Sarah Holman six days a week for at least two hours, with double practices on Wednesdays and an hour on land every Monday and Thursday. Her routine will get more demanding as the trials get closer and she starts training with the team her dad will be taking to Omaha.
Around 40 swimmers will be representing SwimMAC at the trials. Marsh was set to coach swimmers in the trials before Alyssa qualified.
“To have my daughter along to experience that environment, for a coach, would be a dream come true. But it didn’t really matter,” Marsh said, adding he was already proud enough of Alyssa’s increased commitment to swimming and the improvements she’d made.
“I’ve coached lots of big, fast swimmers. If you can love what you do, the prospects of being a long term success are much greater,” Marsh said.
Only the top two swimmers from the 100-meter butterfly will go onto the Olympic team, so it’s pretty difficult, Alyssa said.
“It’s still pretty surreal for me. I’ve been trying to think about it, picture what it’ll be like. It’s still fuzzy, but I can see it,” Alyssa said. “I know I’ll be going to more (trials) in my life. It’ll be a good learning experience.”
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The Olympic trials in Omaha, Neb. June 25 - July 2 will be televised live on NBC. Swimming moved from the third to first most popular Olympic sport since Michael Phelps’ 2008 medal-grabbing run.