A few nights ago, Eddie Reese lay in bed at 3 a.m., unable to sleep.
This isn’t abnormal. Sometimes he wakes up in the middle of the night, and if he can’t doze off again, he’ll pick up a book or hop on his stationary bike. He acknowledges he isn’t a good sleeper, but it’s tough to sleep peacefully when you’re the head coach of Texas’ men’s swimming team, heading to Omaha for the Olympic Swimming trials, which began Sunday.
Although it’s a nerve-racking time, Reese’s responsibility is helping his swimmers make the U.S. Olympic team.
“The Olympic trials, in the United States, is the toughest meet in the world,” Reese said. “It is the toughest top 30 places and only two people out of every event, except for relay events, get to make the team.”
Reese isn’t the only one with nerves on over-drive heading into this weekend. Thirty-nine Longhorn swimmers from both the men’s and women’s teams are headed to the Olympic trials.
“Nervousness is good. You don’t want to get too nervous,” Reese said. “And the good thing about that is splashing water on your face or going in the water has a very calming effect.”
But Texas’ swimmers can’t be in the water every time they feel nervous. So they developed methods to combat their anxiety.
Junior Will Licon doesn’t obsess over the trials. He pursues other activities, hoping to distract his mind. He plays Call of Duty and NBA 2K16. He hangs out with his roommates.
“I try not to think about it,” Licon said. “I just try to take my mind off it.”
Licon is competing in perhaps the toughest events: the 100-yard breaststroke, the 200-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard IM. He might be one of UT’s most decorated swimmers, but making it to Rio de Janeiro would top it all.
“I’d say so,” Licon said when asked if making the team would surprise him. “I’d shock myself.”
It’s ironic calling a six-time national champion and an American Record holder in the 200-yard breaststroke an underdog in the 200-yard IM. But when legends Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte are in the same pool, even the most accomplished collegiate swimmers can be overlooked.
“I think between those two, they have something like 12 of the fastest times in the history of that event,” Licon said. “So they’re pretty good.”
Madisyn Cox admits she’s the nervous type. The junior swimmer is competing in the 200-yard IM, the 400-meter IM and the 200-yard breaststroke.
Women’s head coach Carol Capitani often says, “If you are nervous that means you care.” But Cox isn’t fond of the feeling. So she runs errands. She binge-watches Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix.
Cox admits it’s gotten worse. She’s been watching five or six episodes a day. Her roommate keeps her company.
“You don’t want to just sit there in your own mind and sit alone without anyone to talk to,” Cox said.
Cox tried not to dwell on the trials.
“That’s a constant effort,” Cox said. “To have to, like, put it aside and just think about my normal life. Honestly there’s a little anxiety sometimes.”
Finding distractions might be tough once Licon and Cox are on the edge of the pool at Omaha.
Nerves will agitate, stomachs will tighten. There won’t be Grey’s Anatomy or Call of Duty.
The only choice is getting in the water.