By Emily Sampl
As a high school senior, Ashley Steenvoorden had her choice of several top swim programs to sign with. She went with her gut and chose the University of Minnesota, and things couldn’t have worked out any better.
Coming out of high school, Steenvoorden had never been on a national team, finaled at a national meet or made an Olympic Trials cut. Now, fresh off of her final season as a Golden Gopher, she is a member of USA Swimming’s National Team and is a strong contender to make the 2012 U.S. Olympic team in the 400m and 800m freestyles.
“When I talked with Coach Kelly Kremer during the recruiting process, we did talk about developing a four-year plan,” she said. “In the plan, we discussed training and goals that we both wanted to achieve. I am so fortunate to be working with such a great coaching staff and facility that are helping me reach my dream of being an Olympian.”
Since she began training under Kremer, Steenvoorden has not only made a final at a U.S. nationals meet, but won an event. Last summer, she captured her first-ever national title in the 400m free, following up a successful collegiate season in which she finished fourth at NCAAs in both the 500 and 1650 free. This year, she added another fourth-place finish in the mile, along with a sixth-place showing in the 500 at NCAAs. With her final college meet falling so close to Olympic Trials this summer, Steenvoorden did not rest as much for NCAAs this season, but still put up world-class times.
“It is fortunate that Ashley can be very good on little to no rest,” Kremer said. “She had great Big Ten and NCAA meets on little rest, all with the idea of focusing her performances on this summer.”
As a member of the 2011-2012 U.S. National Team, Steenvoorden also had the opportunity to attend several international meets which took place during the college season, including the Pan American Games in October and Duel in the Pool in December. Although training for and attending the meets did have an affect on her training and schoolwork, Steenvoorden said she never considered redshirting her final college season.
“I don’t think I ever considered redshirting this season,” she said. “For me, I didn’t want to only swim and only think about this summer because if I did, I would start to think too much about it. So for me, taking a lighter course load was best.”
With so many elite athletes at Minnesota in a similar boat as Steenvoorden in terms of preparing for Trials and potentially the Olympic Games, Kremer said blending all of the training groups together is relatively easy.
“Every university is different, every coach is different, but for us, the college season is part of our preparation for Trials,” he said. “Nothing beats racing great swimmers, and the NCAA season allows for plenty of it. I expect Ashley will be prepared and will give her very best at Trials. She has done that for four years at Minnesota, and Trials will be no different. I am really looking forward to watching her race in Omaha!”
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