Kathryn Ackerman picked up three 2020 Olympic Trial cuts representing Michigan Lakeshore Aquatics at Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis over the weekend, securing her a chance to battle for a bid to Tokyo next year.
The first trial cut came Friday in the 200-meter backstroke with Ackerman clocking in at 2 minutes, 14.13 seconds to finish in second place overall. The second cut came with a gold medal, as the Grand Haven junior finished the 100 backstroke as sectional champion in 1:02.68. She finished things off Sunday afternoon with another title and trial cut in the 200 IM, coming in at 2:15.18.
“She had everything firing this week,” said MLA head coach Jim Whitehead. “She was really energized. It was a good sized meet for her and the right level meet to get after it, and she did.”
The gold medals and fast times may seem routine, as Ackerman dominates the local high school circuit regularly splashing headlines with records and cuts. The wins are anything but ordinary at meets of this caliber.
“This is breaking ground for her at the national level,” Whitehead said. “Everyone at this meet is doing the same thing she is at the high school level. They are all at that level. These finals are loaded with girls swimming at major universities. To see her doing what she did this week is special.
“She has had three years here learning how to compete at this level. Everybody thinks she wins all the time, but not at the national level.”
It is hard to imagine technique that leads to a seven-second victory at the Division 1 MHSAA state meet needing improvement, but a few tweaks to Ackerman’s strokes made the difference this week.
“The biggest difference in the training is the breaststroke work,” Whitehead said. “She has done lots of tempo training and you can see it in her IM events. The breaststroke has become her X-factor in those.
“Another big difference is her backstroke as it has really become her primary event. She has always been an IMer because she is good at everything, but we are really starting to see that backstroke take over.”
In all, Ackerman competed in 15 races over the four-day meet including prelim and final swims, relays and additional individual events.
“She selects her own events for these national meets and she is a grinder,” Whitehead said. “She loves to work a lot during her meets. She swam a ton of races this week.
“I don’t remember the last time she swam a 50-freestyle for us, but she gave it a shot and posted one of the fastest times in the country at 26.4. It was incredible. She always wants to work.”
With a 30-plus member sectional team for MLA, Whitehead, in part, credits the atmosphere for the team’s across the board quick times.
“We’ve never taken a group like this to a national meet before,” he said. “We weren’t sure what to expect. It is just a great group of kids in a really positive environment and they had kind of a contagious effect on each other. We had fun from Day 1 and just got hot.”