How many Minnesota cities with a population of about 14,000 had two athletes compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials?
Brainerd can make that claim as Brainerd High School graduates Justin Tyner and Jared Anderson competed in the Trials the last week in June.
Tyner wound up 22nd overall in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, 11th in his heat, with a time of 8:53.92. The Air Force Academy standout said he had a “tough day” in the event, which was run at the University of Oregon.
“I didn’t the make finals, and I had completely expected to going in,” Tyner said, “so that was hard for me. But, being there was an experience for sure. The Olympic Trials are probably the biggest track meet in the U.S. in terms of people getting excited for it.
“It was kind of crazy. They blocked off all the streets around the stadium. It was like a carnival. The city was just packed, the restaurants, the hotels.”
Tyner was matched against the 24 best steeplechase athletes in the U.S.
“It was a great experience, it was just a little heartbreaking outcome,” he said. “A number of people went on to the finals that I had beat before or competed well against before. None of the guys who made the (Olympic) team I had ever beat before.
“The guys who are going (to the Olympics) are just really good. The three that made the team I would say are very clearly the three best. I’m happy in terms of that’s happening. I think they will represent the U.S. really well.”
Tyner said he had no excuse for not running well although he said he might have been suffering from low iron levels.
“The race went out pretty fast,” he said, “and I just didn’t hold on. I was there for five laps. It’s a 7.5-lap race, then I just faded.”
The event could have been one of Tyner’s final competitions since he goes on active duty at the end of July with the eventual goal of becoming an Air Force pilot, a process that takes more than two years. But he hopes to stay physically active and make another run at the Olympics in four years.
“It was such a blessing to be able to be (at the Trials), the fact the Air Force would allow me to be in their program and let me go do that,” Tyner said. “It’s been really great. I definitely made the most of it.
“It was a good season. I got personal bests in two of my events (1,500 run and steeplechase). I progressed in both. I really had a good season in terms of that. And, I got to go to places like Scotland and Spain. That was quite an experience, seeing international competition and making the U.S. team in cross country.
“It was a great year. I just wish I did a little better (at the Trials).”
Anderson said the swimming Trials in Omaha lived up to his expectations, especially the nights Olympians Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte competed. Security was tight with uniformed military personnel frequently checking athletes’ and coaches credentials.
“The place was packed,” Anderson said. “The night Phelps and Lochte were racing it was sold out, a full house. The crowd was crazy. It was the loudest meet I’ve ever been at, that’s for sure.”
On June 25, Anderson finished 31st in his first event, the 100 breaststroke, with a time of 1:02.65, which ranked him fourth overall until all heats finished competing.
“I was definitely happy with how I swam,” he said. “When the stats came up, 18 percent of the swimmers dropped time from their seed time, 82 percent gained time. It was definitely a good accomplishment for me. I cut a little bit of time.”
Three days later, he placed 48th in the 200 breast, second in his heat, with a time of 2:17.85.
“I might have been happier about that race than the 100,” Anderson said. “I was seeded somewhere in the 80s going in. I was really nervous before that race. The 200 is a race you have to think about what you’re doing. When you swim the 100, you just try to go as fast as you can, and your race plan is pretty easy to execute.
“I was worried I would go out too fast and die coming home. The first 75 (yards) felt effortless ... my splits were where I wanted them to be.”
Anderson, who will be a senior and team captain at the University Minnesota this fall, was listed in the Trials program as representing the University of Minnesota and the Brainerd YMCA Dolphin Swim Club.
“They let you select a club that you represent,” he said. “When they asked me I told them I represent both (the U of M Swim Club and the Dolphins). I never swam in the USS program because we don’t really have anything like that in Brainerd.
“I was overwhelmed by how many people from Brainerd reached out to me through Facebook or texting. It was cool to represent my community.”
With the Trials in the mirror, Anderson has begun training for the U.S. Open at Indianapolis in August.
“The goal there is to be one of the top two college eligible swimmers and you can jump on the World University Games team (in Russia in 2013),” he said. “I think I have an outside shot to be in the top eight.”