When Alice Treuth stepped onto the podium at the Irish Open swim championships to accept first place for her winning time of 2:14:04 in the 200-meter backstroke, it was the cherry on top of more than a week in Dublin, Ireland.
“It was such a great experience,” she said. “It was awesome getting to know all these people from all over the United States. They have a rigorous schedule like I do. They train hard. It was so cool to get to a meet like that get that experience in.”
The journey started for the team began back in March at the National Club Swimming Association Junior Nationals in Orlando.
But for the James M. Bennett grad, the journey really started at the age of 5 when she began swimming competitively.
She’s always wanted to make the junior national team or the Olympic team — two of the pinnacles of her sport.
In 2012 she made her first trip the the Olympic trials, and she’ll do it again next summer. This year, the backstroke specialist who competes for the Coastal Aquatics Swim team signed with Notre Dame. She will head there in the fall.
The Irish Open is the country’s championships, but as the “Open” suggests, other countries are able to use the event to gain valuable international experience for their swimmers. Egypt, Denmark and a few other countries competed, as well as the U.S.
The United States sent a team made up of the top performers from the NCSA Championships. But Treuth’s NCSA Championships and the chance to make this squad of under 18 swimmers were nearly derailed by injury.
Swimming at a high level takes intense training.
Last year, she swam Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, and every afternoon. This year there was Saturday mornings with a double on Mondays and Wednesdays, plus outside-the-pool work twice a week.
But a few years ago she broke her ankle and she reinjured it last summer. Her comeback was happening in January so she had a solid two-and-a-half-months before NCSAs because she really wanted to make this Irish Open team.
“I didn’t know how close I’d be, but something I was sure about was that I wanted to go,” she said. “I got back in the pool as soon as my physical therapist said I could. When I was all ready I did practices on my own — never took a day off for about three months.”
She also added running or biking if she felt like she needed it for more aerobic work.
It all paid off as she finished third in the 200 backstroke and qualified for the team.
“We got to Dublin early so we could train together and get to know each other before it started,” she said. “Then had we had four days of swimming.”
Since the meet’s standards were lower than those of the U.S. junior nationals, Alice was able to swim more than just the 200 back. That meant she swam every day of competition because she added in the 50 back, the 100 back, the 200 free and the 200 IM, as well as relays.
She finished third with teammates in two different relays, fourth in the 100 back and first in the 200 back.
Aside from the success and the bonding with other elite swimmers, she was introduced to drug testing for the first time. She was the only U.S. swimmer tested at random, and she said that will be a good experience heading into collegiate competition.
“I probably won’t be able to do something like that again, so it was awesome,” she said. “For the national team there are only two people who make it in each event, and for almost every one you know who at least one of those will be.”
The junior national team and the world team take a few more, but competition for those are fierce as well, leaving making another international team a lofty goal.
But does this taste she had in April make her want it even more?
“Of course,” she said. “Of course that is the dream, but it is so hard.”
Nothing she’s done to this point could be classified as easy, from competing in the state championships as a young child to competing in the 2012 Olympic trials at 15, to grabbing a swim scholarship from Notre Dame.
She still has those Olympic trials coming up in the summer and four years of college swimming ahead.
I wouldn’t rule out having a few more surprises in her already stellar career.
She’s worked for it.
Her confidence is skyrocketing.
And now she’s had a taste.
On Twitter: @ShawnYonker