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Duquesne’s Scholer Uses Adversity, Intentionality In Preparation For Olympic Trials



Photo credit: Zachary Weiss/Pittsburgh Sports Now

As Haley Scholer got back to Towers Pool, she looked to the lanes, and encountered a huge obstacle, there was no one on either side of her.

Familiar with having a training partner, her first week resuming training for her 11 a.m., June 20th 200-yard backstroke Olympic Trial effort at Lucas Oil Stadium, a place the Indianapolis Colts call home, was a lonely one, something which admittedly had her crying many times.

In the past, Scholer has had someone by her side, so the feeling was quite foreign to her.

“That whole first week all I could think about was ‘wow I’m doing this by myself, this really stinks,'” she reflected. “Then some of my teammates started coming with me, the second week and third week which definitely helped a lot. I was very thankful for that. I was begging them ‘please come with me.’ After that first week it definitely got a lot better.”

Duquesne Swimming Coach Dave Sheets recounted the struggles, which led to some heart-to-heart discussions regarding what Scholer wanted to get out of the meet.

Sheets acknowledged that being in the pool training by yourself was a challenge, but the message he gave her was a simple one.

“I told her was ‘we’re in this together and I want you to understand that,” stated Sheets. “‘The days that you’re upset, I’m going to struggle a little too.’ That’s kind of what we’ve done. Every week has gotten better and better and I’ve challenged her a lot more. For me to come off the season and reset again and push for Olympic Trials, it has been a little bit of a struggle for me as well but knowing that she’s doing it, and that we’re doing it together is helping both of us.”

The other takeaway Scholer had to answer was whether she still wanted to pursue Olympic Trials, something she believed was good to address early on in training.

“It was good to just sit there and think if this was something I really wanted to do and it is obviously,” she offered. “I know this is something I’ve worked for my whole life, so to give it up was just not an option for me. It was nice to have that moment to sit there and think that this is actually something I want to do.”

The training has worked out to be a three-month period. Even before this training, Scholer has consistently done the work, staying in Pittsburgh from one summer to the next, which has helped both gauge what it would take to be successful and make adjustments in between days and several meets she swam in preparation for Indianapolis.

A big takeaway from these three months was to make sure the pair were working smart and not doing much because of thinking more needed to be done. The ability to do less allowed for more effort being made on doing the little things, a clear focus on training.

Scholar first qualified for Olympic Trials in early August with a time of 2:13:41, finishing first of 52 swimmers, a personal best time and now is one of 62 qualifiers in an Olympic year where the qualifying time was more than a second faster in a meet which may possibly be the fastest long-course meter meet in the world.

As the process has gone on, there have been days far more challenging that others, but the meet itself came up far faster than initially thought, but Scholer’s excitement built as she saw pictures of the pool and heard about the facility from the coaching staff.

Perhaps the biggest area which Scholer has improved on during the three-month period was intentionally in being stronger mentally.

Sheets acknowledges that Scholer has said no a lot to get to the yes which has become achieving her goal of swimming in Olympic Trials, which shows her growth as an individual and focus on all of the little things which have led to weekly improvements.

“I will definitely feel like I am a lot mentally stronger,” analyzed Scholer. “Usually when I swim, I don’t think at all. This past season that was something I was working on, trying to be more aware of what’s going on when I’m swimming and be intentional. By the end of these weeks, I will definitely say I’ve been a lot more intentional. I definitely still have some work to go, it’s not going to be great every day but by the time trials come around, that’s the biggest thing that I’ve done better compared to last year.”

Scholer has combined that intentionality with the feel she has utilized throughout her Duquesne career and added to it the understanding of finding ways to be okay when she is not always feeling great.

Sheets has made sure not to get caught up in anything outside of winning each day and improving upon that to find what was next. He has been able to go to Olympic Trials once before with Emma Brinton who qualified for the 2019 edition for the 200 individual medley, an event which consists of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.

Now that long-awaited next has arrived as Sunday both Scholer and Sheets arrived at Lucas Oil Stadium and intentionally spent time in the water to process and also gauging the far-different ceiling and sightlines at an NFL venue and using those to find her place within her lane.

“It’s going to be crazy,” she exclaimed. “Any time you go into a new venue, you think ‘woah this is cool.’ I think it’s kind of neat that I get to see pictures of it before it was built, to walk in there I don’t really know what it’s going to look like but it’s exciting. I believe this is the biggest venue trials has ever been held in, so pretty cool. I’m definitely going to take the first couple of days to soak it in and then dial in for the 20th.”

Photo credit: Indiana Sports Corp

As Scholer departs the ready room to fulfill her dream, she will again have her headphones on with Cody Johnson’s Welcome to the Show once again on repeat. She will recall her idol Missy Franklin who, swam in this very trial and look to put her best 200-back or possibly two together in hopes of a trip to Paris.

“Being in the stadium and thinking about getting my chance to race is such an exciting feeling,” concluded Scholer. “It really brings to light all of the reasons why I love to swim so much. I can’t help but smile when I’m watching all the heats go off. I really am so thankful for everyone who has helped me get to this moment. I could not have done it without everyone who cares about me there to support me along the way. It took a lot of hard practices and tears, but now that I’m here, it’s all so worth it!”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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