Waite competes in two events at Olympic swimming trials

Mickey Alvarado

Rachel Waite is back in Tecumseh for the summer after recently compeating in the Olympic swimming trials. Photo b y Mickey Alvarado.

It’s only been a few years since Rachel Waite won a Division 3 state swimming championship in the 2012-13 school year as a senior at Tecumseh High School (THS) and since then she’s made history at Oakland University (OU) and competed in two events at the recent U.S. Olympic team swimming trials in Omaha, Neb.
Waite, a junior at OU, competed in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke races in the Olympic trials and was ranked 115th and 112th with times of 1:13.22 and 2:38.68, respectively, at the CenturyLink Center. She is the first Oakland female swimmer to ever qualify in multiple events at the U.S. trials. Her 100-breaststroke time of 1:01.85 set at the 2016 Horizon League Championships is the best in Oakland’s history. Waite’s time of 2:13.91 in the 200-breaststroke at the same event is the second fastest in Oakland’s history.
Waite and Devon Nowicki, a male competitor, competed at the trials, marking the first time two OU swimmers competed in multiple events at the U.S. trials, and for just the second time in program history, Oakland had two swimmers qualify for the meet.
During the 2015-16 season, Waite was a Horizon League (HL) Champion in the 100- (1:01.85) and 200-breaststroke (2:13.91) and member of the championship 400 medley relay team that set a pool and school record at the HL Championships with a time of 3:41.04.
Waite is majoring in nursing at OU. Her parents are Jack and Joan Waite. Joan is an OU alumna.
Rachel has also been standing out academically, being named to Horizon League Fall Honor Roll (2014, 2015) and becoming an academic All-League selection (2015-16).
Rachel’s name is on a banner that hangs in the high school gymnasium next to the other Tecumseh High state champions. “It’s awesome,” she said of having her name hanging in the gym. “When I first started I saw the banners and I turned to my parents and said, ‘Yeah, I want one of those!’ It’s pretty cool now to have the recognition and see it up there knowing that everyone who goes through the school sees them.”
In addition to winning a state title, she was a four-time all-conference selection in the 100 breaststroke and three-time all-conference selection in the individual medley (IM). A four-year THS letter winner in swimming, she garnered all-state honors in both the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM and four-time team MVP as selected by her teammates. 
Rachel’s close connection with her former high school swim coach, Sarah Eubanks, is where the trip to the trials began. Eubanks has been coaching Rachel since she was nine years old as a member of the Tecumseh Tigersharks team. Rachel said she joined the sport because she wanted to be with her friends. Since then she has amassed many more friends over the years even as a fierce competitor.
“I am so proud of Rachel and honored to have been a part of her swim journey,” Eubanks said. “Watching her compete at the trials was an amazing experience. To know that she is one of the best of the best is such a great accomplishment for her. Rachel has always been a determined, hard working swimmer and a fine young woman.”
Last year Eubanks left Tecumseh to coach a Southern Michigan Aquatics Club (SMAC) team and told Rachel she should go and try out for a spot on it. Rachel became a member of the team during the summer and was encouraged to try a long course event. 
“I’d never done long course before,” Rachel said. “But I said ok I would try it, so we started to do meets and I kept dropping times and it got to a point where I thought I actually had a chance to make the cut for the trials.”
At that point she was determined to drop her times and qualify for the Olympic trials and did. “Everyone was right there behind me supporting me, trying to get me to that cut,” she said. During that time she had dual coaches helping, with Jim Whitehead also pushing her to drop her time. Something else that helped push her was having a lot of very talented SMAC swimmers supporting her along the way. Family and friends from Tecumseh were also there for her the entire way.
“I had so much support,” said Rachel. “Last year after I made my Olympic trial cut everyone in the community was contacting me and telling me how proud they were watching me grow up in the sport. It’s been great.”
Her mother, father, grandmother and a family friend attended the Olympic trials.
Even at the high level of competition involved with the trials, Rachel said she didn’t really feel pressure to perform. “It was more of complete awe of just being there,” she said. “It’s an amazing event there and I couldn’t believe it... We were all around the Olympians. They were all right there, you’d be sitting next to them.”
Rachel will not be competing in another Olympic team trials event. She said she would finish out her swimming career at Oakland and concentrate on her career, potentially staying in the Oakland area due to potential job opportunities.
“It’s a lot more time to put into the sport and with nursing it would be hard to do both,” Waite said of shooting for the Olympics again. “So I’m spending my one last year hoping to achieve my goals and then calling the sport, being done with it and moving on.” She hopes to cut more time off of her competitive events. “I finally got back in the water this week so I’m starting the preparation and hoping to make NCAA’s this year,” she said.


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