Swimming straight through summer

Student Shannon Bagnal competes at Junior Nationals


submitted photo

Junior Shannon Bagnal swims in Junior Nationals at Stanford University.

Katie McClellan, Co-Editor

Shannon Bagnal stands on the deck, waiting for her heat. She looks up and sees the VIP deck where all of the Division 1 college coaches are watching her. She can feel the pressure, the energy, the intensity of the meet. For Shannon, this is just a glimpse of the anticipation and excitement she could experience if she makes it to her ultimate goal: to swim in the Olympic trials meet.

The Stanford University pool is a special place for junior Shannon. It is the pool where powerhouse Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky swims, and where she aspires to swim collegiately. It was there in the second week of August that Shannon competed in the summer Junior Nationals in the 100 and 200 backstroke long course, which are the hardest under 18 cuts to achieve in the country, and swam only 1.19 seconds slower than the Olympic trial qualifying time.

“When you swim there’s obviously that thing in your head where you’re like ‘okay I need to keep my mind focused on my race,’ but you also have to realize that people are watching you,” Shannon said. “The pressure can get to me sometimes, but I also love it, and it helps me go faster during races.”

In order to swim in the summer Junior Nationals, a swimmer has to make a qualifying time of 1:04.39, which Shannon did by swimming her season best of 1:03.88 in the 100 meter backstroke long course in a race at Texas A&M. To get herself in a competitive state of mind for her qualifying race, her coach of five years, Florian Rudolph, made a bet with her.

“I said I would dye my beard pink for our sectional meet several weeks later if she made the cut,” Rudolph said. “Her whole team got excited with her and before her race in finals they started chanting ‘pink beard.’ She went out significantly faster and I knew at that point I was going to have to sport a pink beard.”

The 16-year-old Olympic trials hopeful has been swimming since she was 7 and describes her experience with it as an affinity with the water from day one. Shannon attributes some of this to her mother, who has swam throughout her life and who has encouraged Shannon to pursue the sport.

“All my coaches throughout my life have always said I have a natural feel for the water,” Shannon said. “I’ve been blessed with that gift and have loved swimming ever since I first discovered it.”

Shannon hopes to carry on her love affair with the pool collegiately and professionally, and is currently being recruited by Division 1 college coaches. She spends 16 hours a week, eight practices a week at Nitro, where she’s been swimming in the national group for almost two years now.

“There’s a good kind of pressure looking up and seeing the A&M coach and the TCU coach and the Auburn coach and the Princeton coach watching you,” Shannon said. “I have to remind myself of all of the training that I have done and tell myself it’s just another race.”

Shannon’s goal for the upcoming season is to go to Omaha and compete there in the Olympic trials.

“I don’t have any expectations of making the team because it’s extremely challenging, but to get that experience would be the most amazing thing in the world,” Shannon said.