Highlands grad Bonnett has sights set on U.S. Olympic swimming trials
Bailey Bonnett returned to the Alle-Kiski Valley for a brief stay shortly after the NCAA Division I women’s swimming championships, and it gave her a chance to reflect on her accomplishments over the past season.
The Highlands graduate, a sophomore at Kentucky, earned her second first-team All-American honor March 23 in Austin, Texas, as she placed fifth in the 200-yard breaststroke for the second year in a row.
But when she returned to the Lexington campus, it was back to work in the classroom and back to work in the pool for several upcoming opportunities, including the next U.S. Olympic Trials 14 months from now.
“The training is a little bit different right now. We’re not doing as much speed stuff right now as we normally would,” said Bonnett, who plans to also stay on campus to train throughout the summer.
The 2020 Olympic Trial cuts were released last September, and Bonnett started her push in late November at USA Swimming’s Winter National Championships in Greensboro, N.C.
The event was long course for the competitors to attempt qualifying cuts for the trials, and Bonnett earned a qualifying cut in the 200-meter breaststroke with a time of 2 minutes, 32.08 seconds.
She swam the 200 breast and 400 individual medley at the 2016 Trials.
“I’m already qualified, but I want to keep working at it to bring my times down to be seeded better,” said Bonnett, who also is close to qualifying in the 100 breast.
USA Swimming stages a series of high-level meets throughout the year. Bonnett is set to compete at one next month at Indiana.
She again will swim against Indiana senior Lilly King, the national champion in the 200 breast (2:02.90). King owns the NCAA, American and U.S. Open records in the event.
“King is the best female breaststroker in the world,” Kentucky coach Lars Jorgensen said. “Bailey’s raced King a ton, but this will be another great opportunity. She’s getting more and more comfortable with racing the best people in the country and the world.”
Bonnett also will train her focus on USA Swimming’s Phillips 66 National Championships in July at Stanford. It will be yet another chance for her to better her qualifying times for the Olympic Trials and qualify for the U.S. National Team (top six in each event).
“If she is able to make the national team, that will give her a lot of confidence going into the trials,” Jorgensen said. “She’s always looking ahead with enthusiasm at the next task or goal. She never stops working. She also has the goal of getting back to the NCAA championships and doing even better.”
At this year’s NCAA meet, Bonnett lowered her school-record time in the 200 breast to 2:06.91. Her previous best time in the event was a 2:07.17 at the 2017 SEC championships.
“One of my goals is to go out and beat my personal-best times, and to get my personal best in the 200 breast was a great feeling,” Bonnett said. “I had been trying to break 2:07 for a while. I wanted to focus on the little things and do my best at nationals, but I also wanted to help my teammates and get everyone pumped up.”
The Kentucky women finished 15th, their third straight top-15 finish.
Bonnett also helped the 400 medley relay reach honorable mention All-American status with a 15th-place finish in a time of 3:32.24.
“She is a such a great competitor,” Jorgensen said. “She doesn’t let the big stage bother her very much. She embraces the challenge of a meet like nationals just as I’m sure she did at a big meet when she was in high school. Her competitive spirit is probably second to none on our team.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-856-7400 x8632, [email protected] or via Twitter .