Former Buckhannon-Upshur High School and current West Virginia University swimmer Tim Squires, pictured above, will compete in the 2012 US Olympic Swim Trials this week in Omaha, Neb. Squires, who won six state titles during his scholastic swimming career at B-U, is pictured approaching the starting blocks at the 2012 Big East Championships near the end of his sophomore season with the Mountaineers.
OMAHA, Neb. — The most decorated swimmer in Buckhannon-Upshur High School history has already competed among the top collegiate swimmers and will now focus on competing on a national — and perhaps international — level at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Buckhannon native Tim Squires, who recently completed his sophomore season as a member of the West Virginia University men’s swim team, will compete among a group of eight current Mountaineers at the Olympic Trials, which will begin today at Omaha’s CenturyLink Center and continue through July 2. Squires will compete in two events, the 50 freestyle and the 100 freestyle, in which he won a handful of state titles as a B-U swimmer, but admits the stakes will be a little higher this week.
“It’s definitely the biggest meet I’ve ever been to,” Squires said last week before traveling with teammates, coaches and family members to Omaha. “But I like swimming in a big stadium like that, which is kind of cool.”
Even during a scholastic swimming career in which he won six individual and relay state titles and a collegiate career which has included trips to the Big East Championships and NCAA Championships, Squires has typically remained cool and calm in the pool. Yet as he approaches the biggest stage and brightest spotlight of his swimming career, Squires admits to a few pre-race nerves — even if he tries not to show it to his competition.
“I feel the pressure,” Squires said. “With every ‘first time’ — my first time at the Big East Championships, or at [NCAA] nationals — I feel it, but I try not to show it. I try to stay calm, and sometimes you just have to try to get away and focus on yourself.”
While Squires may try to mask his emotions as he approaches the pool, his collegiate coach says he has seen Squires’ competitive drive on full display during the last year. Squires first surpassed USA Swimming’s Olympic Trials qualifying time of 23.50 in the 50 freestyle back in 2010, when he swam a time of 23.15 at the YMCA Long-Course Nationals. However, he did not beat the qualifying standard of 51.49 in the 100 freestyle until this past March at the 2012 Indianapolis Grand Prix.
When he reached that milestone, according to WVU men’s and women’s swimming coach Vic Riggs, both his confidence and performance bloomed.
“Tim is very quiet and very confident,” Riggs said of Squires. “He has an inner drive that not many people see in him. Through the last half of the college season to where he is now, he gained a lot of confidence and his goals might be bigger than they were a year ago.
“He’s starting to believe he can race with anybody. He’s believing in his training and feeling really good.”
Riggs described Squires’ qualification for the 100 freestyle at the Indianapolis Grand Prix as “huge for him, because no one wants to qualify on their last try.” Squires agreed that reaching the goal of Olympic qualification — a goal he first began to formulate as a high school senior — required a little extra effort in the 100 freestyle.
“It started during my senior year of high school when I swam at [YMCA] Long-Course Nationals,” Squires said of his Olympic Trials dream. “I knew the [qualifying] cut from last year and I knew I beat it, so that’s when I really started to focus on that. But I really had to focus on the 100 [freestyle] cut.”
And reaching the lofty qualifying standard required more than just a steely focus. Squires and his WVU teammates typically swim twice a day during their peak training schedule, while also lifting weights three times a week for about an hour and a half and sticking to one other grueling element of cross-training.
“We run the law school hill every Friday,” Squires remarked with a trace of a grimace. “During the season, we run a lot and after the season we do a lot of swimming and lifting. The hill is tough, and it knocks a lot of weak people off the team.”
According to Squires, the Mountaineers’ demanding training regimen has helped him “put on 25 pounds in college,” though he still describes himself as “always the smallest guy” at each meet. To fuel his workouts, Squires says he has developed a hearty appetite, though he has scaled back his calorie intake while tapering his training in the weeks leading up to the Olympic Trials.
“I try to eat a little before practice,” Squires said of his training diet. “After practice, I’ll usually eat a breakfast of four waffles and four eggs. For lunch, I’ll usually have some peanut butter sandwiches and Gatorade. And for dinner, I’ll eat something like lasagna or chicken, and a lot of vegetables.
“I’m eating less right now while I’m tapering because I’m not working out as hard.”
While Squires and the other WVU swimmers competing in the trials — men’s swim team members Taylor Camp, Brad Eichenseer, Bryce Bohman and Jake Querciagross, along with women’s team members Rachel Burnett, Danielle Smith and Julie Ogden — are cutting back on their practices and getting some extra rest before the Olympic Trials, their coach says the team members have been busy adjusting to “Omaha time.”
Riggs scheduled recent two-a-day practices for 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., with the morning practice time designed to coincide with the preliminary-round start time of 10 a.m. in the Central time zone.
While a tapered training plan helps Squires and his teammates rejuvenate tired muscles leading up this week’s competition, Squires said the process can be as draining on his mind as it is relaxing for his body.
“When you’re in the water [in practice], you go by how hard you feel you’re working,” Squires said of his pre-meet practices. “If you feel good, you talk to the coaches and work a little harder that day. But it always makes me nervous, because it’s hard to really hit a taper.
“It always makes me nervous, every time.”
To overcome that nervous energy, Riggs says he has tried to help prepare Squires and the seven other WVU swimmers for the pressure of national competition by focusing on their theme of “embracing the moment.”
“The kids work so hard to get here, that we just want them to focus on doing the best they can and embracing the moment,” Riggs remarked. “At any given moment, a kid has an opportunity to have 7,000 or 8,000 people watching him swim, so they can get nervous by it or say, ‘Wow, this is awesome.’
“They’ve already won by getting there, and now we want them to do the best they can and have fun with it.”
Still, when competition begins and Squires dives into the pool, the Buckhannon native will be in search of more than just a good time. Squires may be a long shot to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team — with past Olympic champions like Jason Lezak and Cullen Jones among the nearly three dozen swimmers seeded higher than him heading into the trials — but he plans to make the 2012 Olympic Trials a prelude to a second Olympic pursuit in 2016.
“I haven’t thought about it that much,” Squires said of the possibility of making an Olympic team. “I’m going in for the experience and hopefully I’ll be back in four years. It would just be nice to make it back from the first round, but we’ll see.”
Squires will begin competition in the 100 freestyle Thursday in the preliminary round of competition, with the semifinal round to follow later Thursday and the final round scheduled for the following day. Competition in the 50 freestyle will run according to the same three-round format Saturday and Sunday.For the complete article see the 06-25-2012 issue.
Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 06-25-2012 paper.