Addisynn Bursch wants to be part of a team, and there are, undoubtedly, many teams that would love to have her.
“Oh, I think I can handle it,” she said of the prospect of, one day, having teammates. “I’m looking forward to it.”
The University High School senior-to-be may well be the best Spokane Valley high school athlete you’ve never heard of, since the standout swimmer has neither a team to swim for nor teammates to train with.
That Bursch swims well enough to earn an invitation to try out for the swim team that will represent the United States at the Olympic Games in London is a testament to her individual drive and determination.
Training in a lap lane at the Spokane Valley YMCA pool, with only her younger brother, Hudson, for a training partner – and practicing, for the most part, without her coach being present for the workout – Bursch qualified for this week’s United States Olympic Swim Team Trials in Omaha, Neb., where she competed in the 200-meter individual medley Wednesday.
“When we first got here, it was incredible,” Bursch said of the Omaha venue. “This is an amazing place. I don’t get starstruck, so I knew I wouldn’t get all giggly over Michael Phelps if I run into him – I’d just say “Hi, Michael” – but it’s cool to be here with all these athletes because most of them are just college kids and only a couple years older than me.”
In fact, there are few swimmers at the trials younger than Bursch.
Bursch said she didn’t fall prey to a case of nerves Wednesday morning, when she stepped up onto the starting blocks for the sixth of 13 opening heats of the 200 IM.
“I was definitely nervous before my swim,” Bursch said. “But that’s a pretty common thing. I’m happy that I didn’t let it affect my performance the way it did for some. I think I did pretty well, although I could have done better. I was only a second off my personal best time. That was my third fastest time ever.”
Officially, Bursch’s time was 2 minutes, 19.75 seconds, barely a second off her qualifying time of 2:18.65. Her time put her exactly in the middle (62nd) of the 124 swimmers who qualified for the trials in the 200 meter medley – 50 meters of butterfly, 50 meters of breast stroke, 50 meters of backstroke and 50 meters of freestyle.
Bursch took up swimming early, and by the time she was 6 years old, she was taking gymnastics and ballet along with swimming.
“My mom told me I had to pick just one, that I couldn’t do all three,” Bursch said. “So I picked swimming.”
In hindsight, swimming turned out to be the more difficult to pursue of the three sports, but Bursch has no regrets.
“I wouldn’t change anything,” she insists. “It’s harder not having anyone pushing me every day in practice. I have my brother, but he swims at a different level than I do and, besides, he’s a boy.”
With very little local competition available, Bursch travels out of state for most of her meets. Not surprisingly, her Olympic Trials-qualifying moment came two states away at the Santa Clara Grand Prix in California earlier this month.
“My family wasn’t there to see it,” she said. “It was so incredible to look up from the pool and see the clock and realize I’d qualified. It really was a dream I’ve had for a long, long time, and I was so happy that I’d done it. I jumped out of the pool, ran over and hugged my coach (Mike Anderson), and then I ran over to grab my bag so I could get my cellphone and call my parents.
“The problem was, I couldn’t get through to them. They’d been watching the meet on closed circuit TV and they were already calling everyone they knew to tell them that I’d done it.”
While a berth on the Olympic team is not in the cards for Bursch from these trials, they could make for a team invitation before she leaves for home Tuesday.
For starters, she insists, having made her first appearance at an Olympic Trials, she’s anxious to get back to training for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And, she adds, the national championships are just a month off.
In the near term, however, Bursch is at a venue where coaches from all of the top college swim programs are congregated, including longtime University of California coach Teri McKeever, who will coach the 2012 Olympic swim team.
A swimmer who redefines the term “self-motivated” figures to be a hot commodity.
“Coaches aren’t allowed to talk to me until July 1,” Bursch said. “But July 1 is Sunday and we’re not leaving here until Tuesday. I don’t know if any coaches will talk to me while we’re here, but it would be great if they did. I’d love to talk to the coach from the University of Texas because that is such an incredible program and a great facility. That would be my dream – to swim for them.”