By Emily Sampl
Jenny Connolly recently wrapped up her final year of swimming and classes at the University of Tennessee, and with only a few weeksleft before Olympic Trials get underway in Omaha, she is completely focused on making her first Olympic team.
“I’m expecting to do really well at Trials. I want to go best times,” she said. “I know I have a shot at making the Olympic team, so I’m keeping that in my mind.”
Her best chance to make the team is most likely in the 100m back, where she is ranked fifth in the country at 1:00.21, a time she posted at the 2011 World University Games on her way to a silver medal. She also captured a gold medal in the 50m back at that meet, her first major international gold medal.
Matt Kredich, the head coach at Tennessee, has high hopes for her at Trials as well.
“Jenny loves to compete, so my strongest expectation is for her to stay in touch with the joy that she finds in competition,” he said. “This will most likely be her last season, and I think that for most people, the final season creates a perspective that is really clear and that makes a lot of the other superfluous mental junk kind of fade away.”
At this spring’s NCAA Championships, Connolly was a key member of Tennessee’s seventh- place overall team finish, as she earned third-place honors in the 100 back (51.58), fourth place in the 100 fly (51.73) and swam legs on three of Tennessee’s school record-breaking relays. It was a great way to close out an amazing college career with a program she knew could take her to the top.
“I knew Matt Kredich and the University of Tennessee swim program had the ability to make me a great swimmer,” she said. “I have always wanted to make an Olympic team, and I knew Matt could help me get there. I talked to all of the coaches about how I wanted to be the best swimmer I could be. He’s done a great job so far.”
Connolly certainly isn’t the only Tennessee swimmer with Olympic aspirations, and though training during the college season focused primarily on SECs and NCAAs, Trials was certainly in the back of everyone’s mind.
“We have talked a lot about Trials, but we didn’t change training too much from every other year,” Connolly said. “Now that the college season is over, all of our focus is on training and on Trials.”
Regardless of what happens at Trials, Connolly has earned a place in Tennessee sports history, as she was recognized as the Tennessee Female Amateur Athlete of the Year at a ceremony on May 20. Whether or not she makes the Olympic team next month, she has left her mark on the school and is ready to begin the next chapter of her life.
“I will take a break for some time, since I am getting married in August and moving to Utah for an internship,” she said. “So I’m going to focus on my marriage and career for a little while.”
Connolly with HS Buddy and all-around good guy, Eric Ross.