Gliding to Success

March is a month that makes champions. This weekend, Kansas' Amy Gruber is competing in the 2004 NCAA Swimming Championships and hoping to earn a spot in the Olympic trials.

It is a culmination of another successful year for the junior. Gruber was a part of all three school record setting relay teams this season. Last year her 50-free time of 22:96 earned her Big 12 Swimmer of the Month honors. And as a high school swimmer, she set three Arkansas state records.

"Amy is just so comfortable swimming. She has a way of working with the water and is very fluid," said coach Clark Campbell. "She has a natural feel and glides with almost no resistance."

Gruber has glided all the way to the NCAA Championships for the second year in a row.

"It is a really difficult meet to qualify for, the most difficult really – even more so than the Olympic trials."

Swimming and diving had eight swimmers with provisional qualifying times, the most in the history of the program. Two of those swimmers – seniors Whitney Sondall and Kim Bolin – ultimately missed a trip to College Station by less than a tenth of a second.

In the end Gruber once again stood out as the lone representative from KU.

"I think I am more mentally prepared this time," said Gruber. "I know more what to expect. It will not be as overwhelming."

A first trip to the Championships can be intimidating for any athlete.

"This meet is so hard to qualify for and everyone is so fast. There is such an abundance of really good swimmers. The sheer number is amazing," explained Gruber.

"Last year I went in really open minded. Then you see swimmers breaking American records and it really hits you how amazing the competition is. This time, I am more ready."

Campbell agrees Gruber is ready.

"She works extremely hard and that certainly shows when she competes. Whether it is practice or a meet, Amy gives 100 percent," said Campbell.

Full effort is exactly what will be required of Amy this weekend. In today's 50-free, Gruber finished 34th out of a field of 71 in the preliminaries. This was a 30 spot jump from her original seeding. The 100-free is slated for Saturday, but it is Friday's 100-butterfly that Gruber will focus on. Because this is an Olympic year all races are in short course meters.

"The times will be a little different. For many swimmers, it is the first test before Athens," said Campbell.

Swimmers like Amy Gruber.

"I am always trying for a career best," laughed Amy. "I am going in just shooting to make the trials." Top Stories