Omaha Spotlight: Danielle Galyer

NOTE:  The final installment of a five-part series of individual features stories leading up to the 2016 US Olympic Trials.  Today, learn about Kentucky’s first national swimming champion, Danielle Galyer.

Previous features:
Cobe Garcia | Geena Freriks| Kyle Higgins | Christina Bechtel
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Danielle Galyer is in the mix of names being discussed as a contender for the 2016 Olympics in the 200 long course meters backstroke. Though she isn’t a favored swimmer, that was also the case for the 2016 NCAA Championships, when she swam an honest prelims and finals in the 200 short course yards back to be the top finisher in both and lock down Kentucky’s first national swimming title with the sixth-fastest time in US Open history.

“Danielle gets a little bit better all the time, and the last couple weeks she’s had some really good training,” commented head coach Lars Jorgensen. “I think she’s got the chance to make the finals at Olympic Trials. If she does that, you never know. She has to have a great race, and there are a lot of other factors in what everybody else does. But I think she’s going to be in contention.”

Galyer is coming off of the most decorated season in program history.  In addition to her national title, she garnered two additional All-America honorable mention distinctions, was a Southeastern Conference silver and bronze medalist, won the Elite 90 award, was named a First Team Academic All-American and the SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year, and was honored as one of the top female athletes at UK as a CATSPYs’ Miss Wildcat. The list goes on for her junior campaign, and now she has what could be the biggest meet of her career ahead of her: the 2016 US Swimming Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., from June 26-July 3.

This isn’t Galyer’s first appearance at the Trials, who qualified in her specialty 200 LCM back in 2012. But similar to her postgrad counterpart Christina Bechtel, Galyer finished near the bottom of the prelims standings four years ago but suddenly finds herself as a serious contender to make the Olympic team in 2016.

“Last Trials, I was 16, so I was honestly just happy to be there and excited to make it, and that was kind of the end goal,” she recalled about her last trip to Omaha. “It was very overwhelming. It’s such a different meet than any other, even Nationals. So I think I just got really overwhelmed and I wasn’t very confident.”

In the four years since her first outing, Galyer has been able to use her experience at the conference and national level to boost her confidence in her racing. She enters the Trials as the eighth-seeded 200 LCM back swimmer with a time of 2:09.75, recorded during a runner-up finish at the 2015 Phillips 66 Nationals.

This time around, she’ll be going up against one of the biggest names in swimming, Missy Franklin.

Swimming against the four-time Olympic gold medalist and world record holder in the 200 back is not as daunting a task as it perhaps should be for Galyer, who is able to use her experience from the 2015 NCAA Championships to calm her nerves, explaining, “my sophomore year at NCAAs, I swam the 200 back next to Missy in prelims and finals. I didn’t beat her, but that was just a good thing because she’s not as…scary any more, I guess I would say. So I think that has really helped.”

With her veteran status and even-keeled attitude about Trials, Galyer is also looked upon to be a leader to the 24 other swimmers who will be representing UK in Omaha. There are many factors that make Trials different than every other meet that Kentucky swimmers have competed in, notably that this year is predicted to have an overall attendance of over 200,000 with all 15 sessions at CenturyLink Center completely sold out. Even the time before the race has a different protocol, with swimmers being paraded out before every preliminary heat instead of the usual habit of getting to the blocks at one’s leisure prior to a prelims race.

Galyer noted that it all comes down to focus for herself and her fellow Wildcats, saying, “we all have worked hard. We’ve all trained three years for this. For some people, it was just their goal to get there. But now we’ve worked on resetting so everyone has their time goals and maybe a placement goal to make it back in the top 16.”

Another area of focus for Galyer is in regards to her preparation prior to and during the Trials. With the shift from short course yards to long course meters, Galyer explained that it’s harder to carry speed in the backstroke in a long course pool as opposed to a short course pool, the latter of which allows for more speed off more walls.

As for during the Trials, Galyer will be competing in the 100 and 200 back as well as the 200 free, but her 200 back will not begin until Friday, July 1, with finals the following night. That means that Galyer will have five days of other races until she can compete in her primary event, and that will take a lot of effort to maintain the proper amount of focus.

When asked about her feelings on her best race being so near the end of the eight-day Trials, she admitted, “yeah, it kind of stinks that the 200 back is all the way at the end. But it’s also the last day of SECs and the last day of NCAAs, so I’ve kind of gotten used to it and trying not to focus on it the whole time. The 100 back is almost the very beginning, so I really am going to just focus on that and afterwards, I’ll be able to see where I’m at. Then I’m going to do the 200 free a few days after that. So I’m just trying to take it one day at a time and hopefully enjoy the experience and not get too worked up.”

A week remains until Galyer will know her fate of whether she will be in Rio de Janeiro the following month representing the United States on the most prestigious of stages. Until then, she has the task of maintaining her focus and positive attitude about going up against the nation’s elite backstrokers.

“I think I’m just going to go in with the mindset of, ‘I belong here. I’ve done the work to get here. I’ve gone times that put me in contention.’ So I’ll just try to swim my race like I always swim it and not really worry about what everyone else is doing.”

For the latest on the Kentucky swimming and diving program, follow @UKSwimDive on Twitter, on Facebook at Facebook.com/UKSwimDive, and on the web at ukathletics.com.