#TBT: When #SwimBigRed Invaded Omaha

Throwback Thursday:
Husker Swim-N-Dive

June 26, 2016

Photo by Pat Radigan

Husker Alexandra Bilunas earned her trip to the Olympic trials on her third-and-final attempt to qualify

That time six Husker swimmers made it to the USA Swim Trials in Omaha

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Story by Pat Radigan

The concept of #TBT is far from new, especially in internet years, but this is a new feature for us.

And instead of just throwing out random memories each week, we wanted to try and set up each feature with a question, and see how well Husker fans remember. We started it off with this.

Some thought it was wrestling–with the success of Jordan Burroughs and James Green, it kinda feels like most of Team USA is from Nebraska. Same goes for volleyball: The Huskers are well represented, but six is a big number. Those were the top two guesses, but someone eventually stumbled onto the answer.

The Nebraska swim and dive team.

Maybe it served as extra motivation that the Olympic trials are in Omaha, or maybe it’s just a sign of a program on the rise, but in 2016, the Big Red was well represented on the biggest stage in the swimming world. And that was just for the Team USA trials.

Nebraska swimmers Alexandra Bilunas, Taryn Collura, Jordan Ehly, Erin Oeltjen, Morgan McCafferty and Katt Sickle qualified for the trials, including a last-ditch effort by Bilunas to qualify on her third (and final) try.

With such few spots on the Olympic squad, qualification was always a long shot. Nebraska still had a pair of top-100 finishers in Collura (82nd in the 50-meter free, 87th in the 100-meter butterfly) and Sickle (85th in the 400-meter freestyle), and a top-50 finisher in Oeltjen, who placed 40th in the 100-meter backstroke and 52nd in the 200.

Oeltjen shaved nearly half a second off of her time to move into the top 50 in the 100-meter backstroke at the trials. The next year, Oeltjen’s senior year, she went on to set the Nebraska school record in the 100-yard backstroke.

As a freshman, Oeltjen set a career best with a 55.81 in the 100-yard backstroke. Now, her 53.43 still stands as the top mark in the Huskers media guide.

There are a lot of ways to measure the growth of the swimming and diving program, but Nebraska’s growth over the last six or seven years has come piece-by-piece.

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