By Matt de Simone
Olivia Carter continues to have success in collegiate swimming pools as she continues to prepare to make the United States Olympic swim team.
Carter is the granddaughter of the late Dale and Gloria Carter of Buchanan. Growing up, she would often make trips to see her grandparents in Botetourt County. She built an early relationship with swimming while splashing around the James River as a child.
Recently, Carter won the NCAA swimming championship in the 200 butterfly by a second and a half in her home state of North Carolina at the Greensboro Aquatic Center. Her 200 fly title is the first for the University of Michigan, where Carter transferred following a freshman campaign that earned her SEC Freshman of the Year at the University of Georgia.
Collegiate athletes often transfer from school to school, depending on the situation. Ultimately, the move to Ann Arbor was the right one for Carter.
“Admittedly, it was a very difficult decision to make,” Carter explained. “The relationships that I had built and the success that I had had at UGA certainly made it challenging, but ultimately, I felt as though I needed to find a different situation. It was a purely personal decision. I am so happy to be at Michigan now and feel like I belong.”
Carter found success in her first season at Michigan in 2019-20, earning First Team All-Big Ten honors, a Big Ten Championship in the 200 fly, and being named a College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) Scholar All-American.
The COVID-19 pandemic derailed sports programs nationwide on all levels of competition. There was a layoff for many collegiate athletes like Carter. Not only did Carter have aspirations of becoming an NCAA champion, but she also wanted to prepare for her trials to make the United States Olympic Swim Team.
Like many, Carter needed to find a way to supplement new training methods while waiting to return to safe waters.
“COVID has certainly been challenging from a training perspective in that it disrupted so many plans and training cycles and even the Olympics itself,” Carter stated. “After getting word that the 2020 NCAA was canceled and that all training had been suspended, I chose to go home to North Carolina with my family.”
Carter understood that all of the home workouts in the world couldn’t duplicate training in the pool. That short time she spent in North Carolina and away from aquatic centers was the longest Carter had been out of a pool since the age of 4.
“During those two to three months, I had to get really creative with my training since I could not be in the water,” Carter continued. “I boxed, ran a little, did HIIT workouts, and just tried to retain my sanity. As a swimmer, it is challenging to find adequate cross-training because it’s hard to replicate being in the water.”
Remote learning left more flexibility in Carter’s time preparing to return to collegiate swimming. She remained in North Carolina through October of last year. Upon returning, COVID protocols changed the NCAA’s regulations when it came to swimming team operations. Still, Carter was happy to return to Ann Arbor and compete in the NCAA Championships this year.
Carter is majoring in Classical Archaeology with a minor in Native American Studies. After she finishes up her swimming career, her future aspirations stray from her focus of studying at Michigan.
“I am planning on attending flight school once I retire from swimming and becoming a commercial pilot like my dad (a Buchanan native),” Carter said. “I have always known I wanted to become a pilot, so I knew going into school that I could major in anything I wanted to because I would have to attend flight school either way. Unfortunately, there were no colleges that I could see myself at which offered an airline pilot degree.”
Up next for Carter: the Olympic cycle. Last year, due to the pandemic, the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo were postponed until this summer. Carter’s teammate at Michigan, Maggie MacNeil, was recently named to the Canadian Olympic Swim Team.
“We are great friends and fantastic training partners, so I am very excited for her!” Carter added. “I will be very focused on Olympic Trials which occur at the end of June. I’m not sure what other meets will take place this spring/summer, but Olympic Trials is certainly the big focus.”
Currently, the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials begin on June 4 and go through June 30. The events will be staged in two waves and will take place in Omaha, Neb.
For more information, visit usaswimming.org.