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U.S. swim trials to be a learning experience for Hoagland

Jack Hoagland, Notre Dame swimmer from Albuquerque and shown swimming in the 2020 ACC meet, competes at the U.S. Olympic trials this week. (Karl L. Moore Notre Dame Athletics)

One eye fixed on Omaha, the other trained on Paris.

As 20-year-old Jack Hoagland prepares to swim three events at Wave II of the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha – his first event is Sunday – it is a balance of absorbing the benefits of being in Nebraska and gearing up for his future.

“Ever since I’ve gotten here, I’ve definitely taken it different than every other meet,” Hoagland said in a telephone interview with the Journal on Saturday morning from Omaha. “Other meets, I have expectations to be in the finals and competing for a top spot. … Here at the Olympic Trials, it’s definitely changed my attitude, my mindset, to not stress so much about it, and just enjoy the moment.”

Probably, the former La Cueva High standout and current Notre Dame swimmer is a long shot to qualify for next month’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Hoagland, who earlier this year completed his sophomore season at Notre Dame, will swim in the 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter freestyle races in Omaha.

His program begins on Sunday with the 400, the event in which he says he has the best opportunity to reach a final.

“I think my best shot is (Sunday),” he said.

He will compete in the 800 on Wednesday; the 800 is a new addition to the men’s U.S. Olympic Trials program. And he’ll swim the 1,500 next Saturday.

He qualified for the 400 in December 2019 at a meet at Ohio State. Twelve months later, he qualified for the 800 at the U.S. Open in Indianapolis. He only recently qualified – about five weeks ago – for the 1,500, at a meet in South Bend, Indiana.

In February, the 6-foot-5 Hoagland posted three individual victories at the ACC Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. He won the 500-yard freestyle, the 400-yard IM and the 1,650-yard freestyle final. In late March at the NCAA Championships, also in Greensboro, Hoagland finished fifth in the 1,650, 10th in the 500 free and 11th in the 400 IM.

The U.S. Olympic Trials are considered by many to be the most intense, competitive meet in the world – even more than the Olympics themselves – given the depth of American talent.

And between swims, Hoagland plans to be a sponge over the next week.

“Being around all these guys is truly inspiring,” he said. “And it’s amazing to see how they swim their races, to make myself faster by watching them. To be in this environment where everyone is so fast is something I’m not used to, but it’s something I’m enjoying.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Olympic Trials – and Summer Games – are arriving a year later than usual.

Which means the turnaround for the Paris Olympics in 2024 will be a relatively short one. But Hoagland has designs on putting himself in prime position to get to France when the time comes three years from now.

“2024,” he said, “is definitely on my mind. I definitely have my eyes on being in one or two finals in 2024 to compete for the team (going to Paris). Right now, I’m truly focusing on the present.”

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