Penn 16-year-old to swim for spot in Olympics next week

In February, then Penn sophomore swimmer Bethany Galat achieved a life long goal, capturing the state championship in the 200 Individual Medley with a time just a hair more than two minutes.

"I'm so happy right now," a beaming Galat said after winning state. "It went by so fast. I'm just so happy right now."

Galat proudly represents Penn high school and in the off-season the South Bend Swim Club, but next week she's hoping to swim well enough to represent a much bigger team.

"Team USA," Galat says with giant smile.

The 16-year-old is off to the Olympic Trials in Omaha, looking to qualify for Olympic Games in London next month.

"I'm just really mostly excited for the experience and swimming in such a big meet and meeting and competing with all the huge swimmers," Galat explained Wednesday morning before her 90 minute morning workout at Riley High School. "It's just so cool to be at that level. I'm so excited."

Galat is the first South Bend area swimmer to make it to to the Trials in 12 years.

"Every time you happen to see a coach talk about their athlete, they always say 'oh it's the best one ever. I've never seen one quite like this.' And I'm the exact same," explains South Bend Swim Club coach John VanDriessche. "She might be the best athlete male or female I've ever coached. I've been fortunate to coach a lot of fast athletes--but she's at a different level."

Heck, Galat gets off the platform as fast as almost anyone in the world. Her coach says Bethany's starts are clocked sometimes faster than Michael Phelps. He jokes that she's got the first 15 feet down.

She's qualified for the trials in both the 200 and 400 individual medleys. Both races are in meters, instead of yards like Bethany swam in during the high school. That makes each race a little longer.

Only two swimmers can represent Team USA in each event so making it is extremely difficult. Bethany is realist. She knows she's a huge long-shot to make the Olympic Team at just 16-years-old.

""My highest goal is to make it to the finals--the top 8 but even that's a lot to ask," Galat explains. "I'm just glad to be there. But you never know, I'm just going to try my best and see how it goes."

Galat isn't training like she just wants to be there though. She swims from 7-8:30am each morning and 3 times a week returns for an even session. She's quite dedicated.

And she's hasn't let go of the dream of maybe just maybe shocking everyone and making Team USA.

"I'll be happy with whatever happens--that would be crazy if I made it," Galat says trying to put it into words.

Bethany swims in the trials on Monday and Wednesday and then hopes to advance to the Semi-Finals and Finals from there.

The Olympics begin July 27th and can be seen right here on Channel 16.

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