Kyra Sommerstad needed to do a double-check.
Sommerstad had to make sure her eyes weren’t deceiving her when she looked up at the resultboard.
The 17-year-old entering her senior year at Port Jefferson High School swam a 1:02.66 in the 100-yard backstroke at the Metropolitan Senior Championships at the Nassau Aquatic Center in mid-July. In doing so, she qualified by 0.03 seconds for the U.S. Olympic Trials for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
“I didn’t realize at first, so I had to do a double take and look at the board again and I just got really emotional and excited,” Sommerstad said. “It was insane. I just started crying tears of happiness and then a bunch of my teammates came and gave me a huge hug after that race.”
Sommerstad, who has been swimming competitively since she was 9 1/2 years old, said she thought she’d be able to post an Olympic qualifying time at some point this year.
“I was hoping I would do something special, definitely, but I didn’t really expect to make the qualifying time in this meet,” Sommerstad said. “I was expecting it later in the season. But it was definitely a great surprise.”
Sommerstad, who has verbally committed to swim at Ohio State, said she trains 50 weeks a year. During the school year, she trains in the pool eight times a week over six days, some days both before and after school. She also does additional exercising three days a week.
Balancing that schedule along with her schoolwork and a social life can be daunting. But for Sommerstad, it’s just part of chasing a passion.
“It’s definitely been a struggle at some points to balance school and swimming, but I always try to get my homework done before in the afternoon,” she said. “Time management is super important.”
Last fall, Sommerstad won the 200-yard IM New York Public High School state championship, and finished second in the 100 backstroke. She won the Suffolk County title in both events, although Port Jefferson doesn’t have a school swim team. She trains with Three Village Swim Club. To post qualifying times to compete in the county and state championships, Sommerstad swims at independent meets during the school season.
Sommerstad will swim on the varsity level for her senior year and will also be focused on the Olympic Trials, which are from June 21-28 in Omaha, Nebraska.
Sommerstad said her backstroke qualifying time is No. 80 in the country, and typically, only the top two swimmers will be invited to the Olympics. And although it’s a long shot that Sommerstad will compete in Tokyo, she’s most looking forward to competing with the top athletes in the world during the trials.
“It’s going to be super surreal,” Sommerstad said. “It’s going to be so cool to see past Olympians and see how they do at the event and new up-and-comers, also. It just really shows how hard work pays off and how special it is to see the results you want take place.”