Going for the Gold

Kevin VanAntwerpen

Aaron Beebe, Grand Valley State University’s first swimmer to ever qualify for the U.S. Olympic swim team trials, started his swim career freshman year in high school – a late start in comparison to most. But Beebe is not one to let his odds get him down.

“I think it’s my goals that make me different,” Beebe said. “My goals are simply to become as good as I can with the tools that I have. There are some people – national talent-wise – who are better than me, and that’s fine. I just want to do the best I can.”

Beebe, a Clinical Exercise Science major, has already qualified for two events at the 2012 U.S. Olympic swim team trials, the event that determines which swimmers are on the U.S. Olympic swim team.

“It’s going to be a meet unlike any other,” Beebe said. “The U.S. Olympic Swim Team is so hard to make. In all the individual events, you have to be the first- or second-best in the nation to make the team. The goal that I set with my club coach is to reach the top eight, which is a lofty goal, but I think it’s reasonable. But also, if we’re going that far, it’s like – why not just see how far we can take it?”

In addition to qualifying for Olympic trials, Beebe was also named Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Club’s Swimmer of the Week and Division II National Swimmer of the Week twice this year.

“I didn’t even know that could happen in one season,” Beebe said. “I was pleased, but surprised. There are some really great swimmers who deserve it.”

For Beebe, high-caliber success has not come easy. He has had to make sacrifices – everything from cycling, which he loved before he took up swimming, to learning instruments or spending extra time with a significant other.

“There are definitely things I’d like to do other than swimming,” he said. “But it was one of those things where I’m not going to be able to do them. With a sport like this you’re always thinking about getting to bed on time and your nutrition. It’s all going to affect it.”

Beebe noted days during the summer where he’d wake up for a two-hour swim at 6 a.m., eat breakfast, go to work, and not arrive home until 8 p.m.

Beebe’s coaches – head GVSU swim coach Andy Boyce and assistant swim coach Roger Karn, both praised his work ethic.

“He definitely knows what he needs to do to reach his goals,” Boyce said. “He’s a hard worker in the pool, the weight room and the class room. He pushes both himself and others in practice every day, and he’s always watching videos of his performance. He’s very methodical.”

Karn said Beebe’s dedication has definitely helped him become the athlete he is.

“When he came in as a freshman, he was pretty good swimmer,” Karn said. “But he really broke out as one of the big guns of the team later on that year. He’s always putting the team before himself.”

Beebe’s early inspiration to swim came from watching his older brother, who started swimming his sophomore year in high school. Despite the fact his younger brother also swam, Beebe said the sport does not run in his family – his mother ran track in high school and his father was a collegiate downhill skier.

“I think growing up on the Lake, sailing and swimming really impacted my decision,” Beebe said. “I’m pretty uncoordinated out of the water. Swimming was something I was already good at – it’s fun, and I enjoy the competition.”

While Beebe’s shot at the Olympics are a roll of the dice at this point, one thing is for certain – he’ll put his all into it no matter what.

“If I’m going to invest myself in something, I’m going to do my best,” he said. “There are people who obviously don’t have much commitment to a sport, but they just kind of hobble through it anyway. It’s something that I’ve never been able to wrap m head around. If you’re going to spend this much time doing something and not try, what’s the point? I’m going to give it my 100 percent effort.”

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