Miller: Water works part of Alexander's life
At a time when most people are in pools to cool off, splash around and have fun, Bridgette Alexander is all business in her near-daily dives into the water.
The 2014 Milton High graduate and University of Kentucky student is spending most of her summer in classrooms and the pool on the Lexington, Kentucky, campus.
The classroom work involves Alexander’s major in kinesiology, the study of muscle motion.
The pool work involves Alexander’s dream of swimming the 200 backstroke for the U.S. Olympic team in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
She made a step in that direction two weeks ago when she qualified for the World University Games to be held in Taipei City, Taiwan, Aug. 19-30. She qualified by finishing fourth in the 200 backstroke at the Phillips 66 Nationals in Indianapolis with a time of 2:10.10. She had the third-fastest preliminary time of 2:09.44.
A first- or second-place finish would have put Alexander on the U.S. National Team for the FINA World Championships, which is a step up from the University Games. Reaching either competition is an accomplishment.
“I knew I was in a good position to do something cool,” she said.
Alexander won 10 individual WIAA Division 2 state titles while swimming for the Red Hawks, but she wasn’t sure of her abilities at the NCAA Division I level until the start of last year. It was then that she saw the results of the miles and miles she puts in the pool each week.
“My times in practice made me think, ‘Wow, I can do this,’” she said. “So I had a lot of confidence going into the (Phillips 66 Nationals).”
And does she practice. She’s in the water almost as much as on land.
Alexander is in the pool at least once a day Monday through Friday. During the summer, she does two practices every day except Wednesday. Practices are two to two-and-a-half hours each.
“Sometimes our coach gets excited and we go closer to three,” Alexander said.
Alexander has to do that to get every part of her backstroke down to perfection. A fingernail over the course of 200 meters can be critical in a race.
“It separates people,” Alexander said of blink-of-an-eye time span. “You look at results, and there could be eight people within a half-second of each other.”
So she ignores the urge to take some time off.
“I know deep down, if I really want to be good, that I can’t do that,” she said.
So you can usually find her in the UK pool, alongside teammate Asia Seidt. Seidt also swims the 200 backstroke, and she also qualified for the World University Games with a third-place finish at the Phillips 66 Nationals.
The Wildcats’ swimming team is much like its basketball team. It has an abundance of talent, with five UK women competing in the national meet.
The two push each other, with UK coach Lars Jorgensen urging them on practice after practice.
“There are definitely days when we do quality over quantity,” she said. “But there’s definitely days when we go, ‘OK, we’re going to train 8,000 yards in two hours or 2½ hours.’ And I’m like OK …
“I wouldn’t say I’m sore, but just more tired. Definitely a lot of naps. I am taking classes right now, but I make time for my naps.”
Alexander will swim in one meet later this month, then participate in a swimming camp run by Jorgensen. Then it is off to her first international meet in Taipei on Aug. 16.
“This is just one of the events to get us swimmers ready, potentially, for the Olympics,” she said.
And that is her ultimate goal.
“Definitely,” she said. “I think that’s any kid’s dream. Now it’s starting to get a bit more real. If I work really hard and keep going in the direction I’m going, I can possibly get there.”
Alexander has been accepted in UK’s graduate school. She’ll compete in her final collegiate season as a post-graduate student. She’ll continue to train at the school as she completes her graduate courses.
Every stroke, every leg kick, every practice is done with Tokyo in mind.
“I’m excited to see where it takes me,” she said.
Tom Miller is a sports writer/page designer for The Gazette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org