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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Pullman swimmer Jake McCoy primed for Olympic task

{span}Swimmers William Miller, left and Jake McCoy were named to the USA Swimming Scholastic All-American team for 2021-22.{/span}  (Courtesy Cougar Aquatics)
By Teren Kowatsch Lewiston Tribune

Pullman High School swimmer and University of Tennessee commit Jake McCoy will try to do something only the elite of the elite ever get a chance to do: represent the United States in the Olympics.

The Class 2A state champion will race in the Olympic swim trials in Indianapolis to try to make that dream a reality. The event is from Saturday to June 30, and McCoy’s race, the 400-meter individual medley, will take place Sunday.

In addition to the Olympics, McCoy has a chance to qualify for the Junior Pan Pacific championships in Canberra, Australia, set to take place Aug. 21-24.

“I’m so excited,” McCoy said. “I’ve watched this meet two other times when my sister went, and it’s awesome. It’s entertaining. It’s a great meet and I’m super excited to go out and race some of the fastest people in the country.”

McCoy achieved Olympic trial-qualifying time Aug. 1 at the Speedo Junior National championships in Irvine, Calif., but didn’t find out until a few moments after the race he was heading to Indianapolis.

When McCoy swam the prelims in the same event at junior nationals, he barely missed out on making the cut for the trials with a time of 4 minutes, 25.47 seconds.

During the finals of the 400 individual medley, he couldn’t see the time on the scoreboard because his goggles were filled with water and fogged. He couldn’t quite see the time (4:25.02) but he and his coach Russ Whitaker saw the gold box with the letters next to McCoy’s name. The box had the letters “OT” in them.

McCoy had made the Olympic trials.

“It was a big goal for us to get that time standard,” Whitaker said. “And I was happy for us that we did it a year in advance. It allowed us to train this year, have that preparation. He definitely has that mindset of wanting to get into the Olympics.”

It will be the first time McCoy has the chance to represent his country in the quadrennial event, but it isn’t his first time experiencing the Olympic trials.

Jake McCoy’s sister, Taylor McCoy, is an accomplished swimmer herself. Taylor McCoy, who swam for Washington State from 2017-2022, twice competed in the Olympic trials, competed in the 2023 World Cup in Athens, Greece, and set several school records during her time as a Coug.

Jake McCoy saw his sister compete in the Olympic trials and has received some advice that could help him in his bid for a spot in Paris. One piece of advice he received is to be on time.

“It’s a really sophisticated meet,” Jake McCoy said. “You kind of have to be there a certain amount of time before you race, you have to do all these things. You have to carry your badge everywhere. … She’s been extremely helpful.”

On Sunday, McCoy will go against some of the best swimmers in the world. In April, he and Whitaker went to a pro series competition in San Antonio to compete against some of the best aquatic athletes the United States has to offer. Among that list was Leon Marchand, who owns the world record in the 400 individual medley (4:02.50).

“That was a fun meet. It was very, very fast,” Jake McCoy said. “And especially leading up to the meet, it was insane. And it’s very similar to (the trials), so I think it was really good practice. A lot of people, including myself, weren’t as rested as they’re going to be going into (the trials), but it was awesome to race all those people and race the world record holder.”

Between representing the Cougar Aquatics club team at the trials and dominating the Class 2A state level with the Pullman Greyhounds, much of Jake McCoy’s life revolves around swimming. As does his coach’s.

Whitaker, on top of being Jake McCoy’s personal coach, has been at the head of Cougar Aquatics for years. He also recently accepted a job as the new head swim coach at Washington State, where he has served as director of operations since 2017 and was an assistant coach last year.

It would be easy for Whitaker, and Jake McCoy, to get overwhelmed with everything going on. But there’s an understanding: for two hours a day, the focus is on training.

“We’ve been around each other so long that we both know there’s a lot of stress in each other’s lives,” Whitaker said. “But what’s nice is that when we come to the pool, no matter what’s going on, I think we do a good job of (focusing). The WSU job doesn’t matter from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Right now, getting (McCoy) better, that’s what matters. And even with Jake, all the stress he has … All that stress doesn’t matter from 5-7 p.m.”

Jake McCoy just finished his junior year and already has an opportunity to try to represent the second-most successful Olympic sport in United States history (578 total medals). Just making the trials puts him in the 99.997th percentile of swimmers in the country.

To be an Olympian, he has to be even better. The top-two placers in each event will make it to the 2024 Paris Olympic team.

His support system around him has helped prepare him for this moment. A moment that he’s been working his entire life for and a moment that will be watched by thousands of people. Two qualifying blocks will be broadcast at 11 a.m. on the streaming service Peacock, 5 p.m. on the USA network and the finals are at 8 p.m. on NBC and Peacock, on Sunday.

“It’s really, really cool,” Jake McCoy said. “And hopefully, maybe in a couple days but, especially in the next couple years, hopefully I can contribute to (the Olympic team). It’s awesome.”