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BBST’s Emma Carlton off to Olympic Trials

Bellingham Bay Swim Team coaches, swimmers and parents say goodbye and good luck to Emma Carlton after her final practice in Bellingham before heading to U.S. Olympic Trials on Thursday, June 23, at Arne Hanna Aquatic Center.
Bellingham Bay Swim Team coaches, swimmers and parents say goodbye and good luck to Emma Carlton after her final practice in Bellingham before heading to U.S. Olympic Trials on Thursday, June 23, at Arne Hanna Aquatic Center. eabell@bhamherald.com

Emma Carlton’s family ensured they didn’t miss a moment of their daughter’s 100-meter butterfly final three weeks ago during the Speedo Sectionals at King County Aquatic Center.

Carlton’s dad recorded the race, but after Carlton finished and her accomplishment was realized, jubilation took over dad’s focus.

“My mom said that my dad dropped his phone when he was recording me,” Carlton joked.

It was a warranted reaction. Carlton, a 16-year-old Bellingham Bay Swim Team member, had just qualified for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials with a personal-best time of 1 minute, 0.84 seconds.

Carlton, who is an incoming junior at Mount Vernon High School, became BBST’s first swimmer to ever qualify for the trials.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Carlton said. “It’s especially good because it’s more experience.”

In fact, outside of the Olympics, competing at the U.S. Olympic Trials will offer Carlton the best competitive experience in the world. She’ll be rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in U.S. swimming: Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin to name a few.

And who knows, after the trials Sunday-Sunday, June 26-July 3, in Omaha, Neb., Carlton could find herself next on the world’s biggest stage for the Summer Games in Rio. Carlton is slated to compete in the 100-butterfly prelims Sunday, June 26, and the finals are the following day. The trials will be televised on NBCSN with coverage beginning at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Carlton is an anomaly in the sense that she’s encountered such success at her young age, but what stands out most to BBST coach, Sean Muncie, is Carlton’s no-fear attitude and intense commitment to her craft.

“She is not scared,” Muncie said. “A lot of times (swimmers) are scared to do something because they are scared of failure. They think, ‘If I commit to this, what If I fail?’ That is not on her radar.”

So, of course, Carlton’s heading into the trials not as an intimidated 16-year-old first-timer, but rather a confident, talented athlete looking to gain invaluable experience.

“It hasn’t hit me,” Carlton said. “It just feels like I’m going to another big meet. It doesn’t feel like I’m going to the Olympic Trials.”

Carlton’s swimming journey began at 9 years old while living in Arizona. One of her friends asked her to join, and Carlton enjoyed swimming enough to stick with it. She joined BBST at 11 following a move to Washington.

Since, Muncie has watched a budding star develop into one of the nation’s elite young swimmers. She is nationally ranked No. 61 all time in the 100 meter butterfly long course for 15-to-16-year-old girls.

Not only is Carlton qualifying for the Olympic Trials a huge moment for her, it’s also groundbreaking for BBST, Muncie said. While Muncie’s always told his swimmers what hard work and dedication can achieve, now the dream of competing in the world’s biggest races seems much more obtainable.

2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Swimming

When: Sunday, June 26-Sunday, July 3

Where: Omaha, Neb.

TV: NBCSN

100 butterfly prelims/semifinals: TV coverage starts at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 26

100 butterfly finals: Monday, June 27

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