Tuesday, June 26, 2012 will forever be an unforgettable day for Heather Harper.
“It was a childhood dream come true,” said Harper, a Redmond native who swam in her first U.S. Olympic Trials race Tuesday at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb. “It was a really a surreal feeling. It was an amazing feeling to be there for sure.”
Harper, a sophomore at Boise State University who won two Class 4A state breaststroke titles in 2008 and 2010 while swimming for Redmond High School (RHS), finished third in her heat and 111th overall in the 100-meter breaststroke at Tuesday’s trials. The rising star finished the race in 1 minute, 12.96 and moved up 35 spots from her seed of No. 146.
Harper clocked a 34.03 in her first 50 meters in front of the biggest crowd of her career. She said it was her third or fourth fastest time ever and just a bit slower than the 1:12.14 she clocked in March to qualify for the trials.
“For the intensity of the meet, I was really happy with my race,” Harper said in a telephone interview with the Reporter. “The atmosphere was so energetic. It was like nothing I’ve been a part of before.”
Harper said she was pretty relaxed in the days leading up to her race on Tuesday, but once she walked out to the starting blocks, the magnitude of the meet shook her body.
“It was a crazy feeling,” she said. “It really didn’t hit me until I started to walk out.”
Harper did not advance as the top 16 swimmers from preliminaries advance to the semifinals in races 200 meters and shorter, but she will always cherish the opportunity she had in competing against the sport’s fastest swimmers.
“It was amazing to have the chance to swim with some of the fastest people in the history of the sport,” she said.
Harper said she will swim again on Wednesday in a time trial to see if she can improve her time and then she will head back to Redmond Sunday evening for summer break before returning to Boise State in August to begin training for the next swim season.
“It will be nice to be back home with my family again,” said Harper, a homeschooled student who swam for RHS from 2008-10.
She said it’s still too early to speculate on another run at the Olympics in 2016.
Right now, Harper is just enjoying the day — Tuesday, June 26, 2012 — she will never forget.