Pair of freshmen Olympic trial qualifiers join BYU swim team

Swimmers stand ready to dive in at the Blue vs. White scrimmage on Sept. 19. The meet was held two weeks prior to the beginning of the season. (Maddi Dayton)

The BYU swim and dive teams added some serious firepower when freshmen Connor Stirling and Ellie Thornbrue joined the roster this past summer.

Both Stirling and Thornbrue had already qualified for the Olympic trials prior to coming to BYU. Stirling made the cut in the 50-meter freestyle and Thornbrue qualified in the 100-meter butterfly. They posted times of 23.13 and 1:01.13, respectively. The addition of these freshmen should prove invaluable to both the men’s and women’s teams.

“It matches what’s on the team — we are trying to get swimmers to come in with fast times,” BYU swimming head coach John Brooks said. “It’s a great thing. It elevates our team, both guys and girls. It makes it a deeper and stronger team as a whole.”

Stirling and Thornbrue aren’t the only Cougar swimmers who have made the trial cuts. Senior Jake Taylor has also qualified for the Olympic trials. He has become a mentor to Stirling and also gives him some great competition in the pool. Stirling will have to push himself to improve upon his already fast times in order to keep up with Taylor.

“He’s definitely one of the fastest guys I’ve ever raced before. Especially in season, he’s able to do stuff that I’ve never seen before,” Stirling said. “He’s a great mentor and he’s such a nice guy. He’s helped me grow so much in just the month and a half I’ve been here, so I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Qualifying for the U.S. Olympic trials prior to joining a collegiate program is no small feat. It brings a lot of excitement to the season, and one of the challenges this year will be living up to the hype that surrounds Stirling and Thornbrue.

Thornbrue said that being a freshman and having her Olympic trial cuts definitely helps heading into the season. She hopes to carry the excitement from the summer throughout the swim season to help improve her personal times.

All-American senior Jake Taylor prepares to race. He will help freshman Connor Stirling improve this season. (Maddi Dayton)

Thornbrue will help the BYU women’s team that has struggled over the last few years. The missionary age change has also affected how the women’s team has performed as more women have left to serve missions. Thornbrue will be able to provide an anchor to a team that wants to be ranked in the top 25 nationally.

As for the men’s team, Brooks expressed excitement about a roster loaded with potential.

“The guy’s team this year is a perfect storm of guys that are on the team, guys coming back from missions, and guys that are just starting,” Brooks said. “We’re hoping to be the highest BYU’s ever been ranked.”

Both Stirling and Thornbrue have a goal to swim at the NCAA Championships in relays and individual events. They will continue to get stronger and faster and will bolster the men’s and women’s teams as the season progresses. The freshmen will have the opportunity to compete in the Olympic trials next summer after the season is over.

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