The highlight for Cronk was winning her heat in the 100-meter freestyle; she finished 24th overall in that event.
When Micayla Cronk arrived at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska, she was a bit star-struck.
The seven-time high school state swim champ and the most decorated high school athlete in Flagler County history was competing in her first U.S Olympic Swim Trials June 13-20.
“It was a huge stadium. There was a light show. The pool was all lit up,” Cronk said. “You walk around, you see a lot of Olympians. It was an entirely different experience. I’m very grateful I got to go.”
And though the 2021 Flagler Palm Coast High School graduate did not accomplish her main goal of improving her times in her three events, she was pleased with the results.
“I didn’t drop any time, but I gained a lot of experience, which was amazing,” she said.
The highlight, perhaps, was winning her heat in the 100-meter freestyle.
“That was another goal I went in with. I wanted to win a heat,” she said. “It was awesome to finish, touch and look up at the (giant video screen above the pool) and see yourself up there.”
Cronk finished 24th overall in the 100, tied for 30th in the 200-meter freestyle and completed her week with a 60th-place finish in the 50 freestyle.
Her first event of the week was the 200 free and she was so nervous and hyped up that she swam the first 50 meters at near world-record pace to take the early lead.
“I completely died on the last 50,” she laughed.
Yet she still finished tied for third in the heat.
Cronk got to walk past and warm up with several Olympians, many she’s idolized. It was all a surreal experience, she said.
“I got into the pool, Simone Manuel was in my lane. She swims in my events. I grew up watching her.
“I was looking at her stroke, the dynamics of it,” Cronk said of Manuel, who won two gold and two silver medals at the 2016 Rio Games. “I was seeing what I can do, just in the moment. Her stroke is really powerful.”
Cronk also got a chance to talk with her future college coach, the University of Florida’s Anthony Nesty, who had been the Gators’ head men’s coach and will now lead the women’s team as well.
“It was my first time meeting him in person, so it was very nice, especially at a big meet,” she said.
After the Olympic Trials, Cronk and her family went on a week’s vacation in Colorado, where she did a lot of hiking.
Back home now, she has returned to training, which means daily trips to Oviedo to practice with her swim team, the Blue Dolfins, coached by Charlie Rose. The pool is about an hour and 15-minute drive from her Palm Coast home, she said. She drives to practice six days a week for morning practice. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays the team also has afternoon practices during the summer.
But the long drive and the two-a-days are “100% worth it,” she said.
“Charlie Rose is one of the greatest coaches I’ve ever had,” said Cronk, who has been swimming competitively for about 10 years. “I immediately clicked with him. On top of that it’s an amazing swim team. Everyone’s really supportive. I can count on coming (home) with a smile on my face.”
"I’m ready to get better, continue to train hard, get where I want to be."
Cronk has one more competition coming up before she moves to Gainesville in August to begin her college career.
She has three years to prepare for her next opportunity to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in 2024 and make a dream come true. All in all she was pleased with her first trip to Omaha.
“I’m happy with it. You can always do better as an athlete, always push forward,” she said. “I’m ready to get better, continue to train hard, get where I want to be. I’m happy that I went and got to enjoy the experience and to get an overall feel for the meet.”