By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
For some time, Michael McBroom had been feeling that he was on the cusp of making the U.S. National Team before breaking through at the ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships last summer.
And despite swimming into the finals of the 1,500 freestyle with the top qualifying time in Palo Alto, Calif., McBroom admits he didn’t meet his own expectations when he finished fourth and out of medal contention.
Even though the finish was strong enough to earn a spot on the coveted National team, it’s a result that continues to drive him through this NCAA season and into the summer’s big events to make good on those feelings and desire to fulfill his promise.
“Going into the meet last summer, I was definitely expecting big things from myself,” said McBroom, a junior at the University of Texas. “I was expecting more than what I did, and that continues to drive me this year. I’m anxious to do more this summer.
“I went into the race seeded first after a great, smooth prelims swim and just did not perform how I wanted to in the finals, and (Longhorn teammates) Michael Klueh and Jackson Wilcox were very supportive. It was great to have teammates like that.”
Currently at Big XII Championships on the University of Missouri campus, it wasn’t long ago that McBroom was competing for a different team in a different conference. His journey to be an All-American and NCAA Champion (1650 freestyle) actually began at the University of Minnesota.
Born in Minneapolis, he and his family moved to Austin when he was six and then to Chicago. He lived in the windy city for the next six years before returning to Texas.
Still holding onto strong memories of his childhood, when it came time to choose a college and swim program, he selected the University of Minnesota instead of the home state Longhorns.
He spent his freshman year as a Golden Gopher, finishing fourth in the 1650 but longed to return to his true “home state” school and swim as a Longhorn, so he transferred at the end of the spring semester.
“I didn’t go to Texas from the beginning because growing up, I had always wanted to go to Minnesota,” said McBroom, a favorite to defend his NCAA title in a few weeks in Seattle. “I was born there and had family there, but after being up there for nine months, I realized my heart was in Texas.
“I loved the atmosphere here in Austin and the focus on certain goals that the team had. Also, I was thrilled by the opportunity to go swim for Eddie Reese and Kris Kubik and swim alongside some of the nation’s great distance swimmers.”
That combination of coaching and intensely competitive training spurred McBroom to his first NCAA title last spring – giving him a tremendous confidence boost heading into the rest of the year.
He said despite having a target on his back as the defending champ this spring, he doesn’t feel any extra pressure to do anything different or take an alternate approach to the competition.
“I’m going to do what I can do and that’s it,” said McBroom, who learned to swim at 2 years old but didn’t swim competitively until 12 at the urging of his parents, who both swam. “This year, I look forward to competing for a team title and look forward to putting up new best times.
“It was awesome to win last year, and it was so exciting to do it for a team competing for the team title. For me, it was all about the team points.”
Since he missed the 2008 Olympic Trials due to injury (he was recovering from a torn ligament and tendon in his elbow incurred in a skateboarding accident), McBroom said he is equally excited to come to Omaha this summer and take in the pageantry of the event – as well as see and do some tremendously fast swimming.
Having dreamed of being an Olympian since he was 14, McBroom said he would love nothing more than to finish among the top two in the longest distance race of the event and accomplish another longtime goal.
“I have heard it (Trials) is awesome and just unlike any other meet and that there will be thousands of fans there,” said McBroom, a government/political science major at Texas. “Swimming in the Olympics is something I’ve wanted since I was little, but it was my club coach, Tim Bauer, who made me realize that I could do something special in swimming, and from that belief in myself, I have continuously progressed.
“I feel like I have a good chance (to make the Olympic team). You gotta believe in yourself. I think that Chad (La Tourette) and Peter (Vanderkaay) will be great competition in the 1,500, and there will be at least five other guys in that heat who can do something amazing. I think that it will be a very deep event. I just can’t wait to get there and see how it all plays out.”