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Rigdon ejoys Olympic Trials

by Chuck Smock, sports editor

Charlene Rigdon enjoyed the swimming experience of a lifetime last week in Indianapolis at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

And it was a whirlwind trip the Douglas High senior didn’t even know she would be making until less than one week before she stepped into the sport’s spotlight.

Rigdon was competing at Junior Nationals in San Antonio on Aug. 4 when she turned in a fourth-place finish in the 100 backstroke finals. More important was the fact that her time of 1 minute, 5.34 seconds -in addition to being a personal best – was fast enough to earn her a trip to the Olympic Trials.

She made her Olympic Trials cut on a Friday, flew home on Saturday, flew to Indianapolis the following Tuesday and then competed on Thursday.

Rigdon wasn’t able to match her performance from Junior Nationals, but she said the atmosphere in Indianapolis was memorable enough to motivate her during the four years that will pass before she gets another shot at making the U.S. Olympic team.

“It was amazing,” Rigdon said. “The excitement and the energy in the whole building was so neat. At finals, right before the race, the whole building went silent when the swimmers got up on the blocks. As soon as a race started, everyone in the building started cheering.

“When people were going for American records or world records, everyone was screaming. It was amazing to watch.”

Going into the 100 backstroke finals at Junior Nationals, two of the top competitors had already made their Olympic cuts. Rigdon said it was unusual that the first four swimmers in her event made the Olympic Trials, considering that the winners of several other races didn’t qualify.

“I think we were all pushing each other,” Rigdon said. “”In the ready room before the race, all the girls were really excited for each other and we were all supportive of each other. That was a great meet, too.”

She added that she was shocked to learn that she had earned the trip to Indianapolis.

“I knew I was going to do well and I was pretty excited for the meet, but I was surprised I got the cut,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting it.”

Rigdon also turned in an eight-place finish in the 200 backstroke at the Junior Nationals finals and just missed an Olympic Trials cut in that race.

And while she may not have performed as well as she would have liked at the Olympic Trials, Rigdon said she’s ready to start focusing on her senior year at Douglas as well as her future collegiate swimming career.

Rigdon, who trains year-round with coach Skip Roggenbihl, won the Nevada state championship in the 100 backstroke as a junior last year and finished second in the 50 freestyle at the state meet.

She recently received a letter from the University of Texas at Austin and has traded e-mails with swimming coaches at Rice University in Houston. She also hopes to hear from the coaches at Colorado State University in Fort Collins in the near future.

“This makes me really excited to keep training and working hard,” she said. “This cut will probably help me a lot with colleges. I think it opens a lot of new doors. I want to make finals and the next (Olympic) Trials. That’s my goal.”