By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Thursday, July 13, 2017
Despite swimming fast enough to earn a spot on this year’s FINA World Championship team, Bethany Galat holds a different meet as the most influential and meaningful in her life.
Last year’s Olympic Trials.
That meet taught her how much she enjoys racing, and even though she didn’t make that Rio Olympic team, it reinforced her love for swimming and especially in her faith.
“Racing for a spot on the US Olympic team was something I didn’t want to take for granted,” said Galat, a senior-to-be this fall at Texas A&M. “The meet really showed me how much swimming is an avenue to worshiping my Lord. I constantly ask Him to both humble me and show His love, and that’s always put me in a strong mindset.
“It’s hard to compare each meet, but this year’s Nationals was particularly special because I had felt pretty discouraged from how I was training. So my success is a huge testimony toward the support I had from my faith, and my coaches/team belief in me.”
Still, the meet two weeks ago in Indianapolis – in Galat’s home state – was ultimately very special for her.
Because of her performance – second in the 200 breaststroke behind a very fast winning swim from Lilly King – she gets the opportunity to fulfill one of her biggest dreams.
“Nationals in Indianapolis was very special for me – I have many memorable moments and learned many valuable lessons in that pool since I grew up in Indiana,” said Galat, who is from Mishawaka, Ind.
“It was impossible not to remember those moments I had with my high school and club teams; those moments reminded me of their support and belief in me and inspired me a lot at Nationals. Getting a spot on the World Championship team in the 200 breaststroke felt like a dream, and really is a testimony toward those who have supported me.
Her ticket to Budapest was a path she set in motion last summer in Omaha when she finished third in both the 200 breast and 400 individual medley.
And while she just missed making that Olympic team, she dropped almost 5 seconds in the 200 breast and almost 7 in the 400 IM. Those were the first and fourth biggest time drops of the meet for women.
A couple of weeks later at the U.S. Open, Galat won the 200 breast and 400 IM events and finished second in the 200 IM and third in the 100 breast.
She said she felt very motivated as a result of her swims last summer, and she chose to focus on the significant improvement and time drops rather than how close she came to swimming in her first Olympics.
“It’s hard not to feel motivated after a meet of your life, but I of course struggled with insecurities,” she said. “As time passed, after the meet it was a little difficult for me as I realized what I missed out on, but the meet was such a huge step forward in what I saw in myself and in my coaches. I will always come back to that meet as one of the most meaningful experiences in my life.”
The youngest of four, Galat said she grew up always wanting to do what her older siblings were doing – and that meant swimming.
Her parents signed all four of the kids for summer league, and as a 7-year-old, Galat enjoyed the social aspect of swimming more than the competitive side.
But once she joined the South Bend Swim Club in 2007, she and her coaches started to see some definite long-term potential in Galat.
“Shortly after joining, my coach, John VanDriessche, confidently told me I would qualify for the Olympic Trials in 2012, and we thought he was crazy but it ended up happening,” she said. “His energy and his continual belief in me was absolutely the turning point for me. He has always seen a better swimmer in me than I have myself.”
That belief carried over to Galat when she was looking into potential colleges as a high school junior.
Knowing that Steve Bultman and his staff at Texas A&M had helped Breeja Larson realize her own Olympic dream in 2012, she knew pretty quickly that College Station was the right landing space to help her maximize her own swimming potential.
“Steve is a wizard – and it’s impossible not to give credit to (Associate Head Coach) Tanica Jamison and (Strength and Conditioning Coach) Tanna Burge,” Galat said. “They have completely changed my mindset. It’s common to think giving 110 percent effort and muscling out the training is how you train the hardest, but my coaches are incredible with teaching us how to focus on and perfect the purpose of the set, down to the details.
“On top of the training we do, it also still amazes me the technicalities the coaches see every day. It’s muscle memory for us all to automatically look at the coaches when we approach the wall, expecting to hear them say what we can improve. They see so much potential in each one of us and they have always given equal attention to us all.”
With this World Championships her first international meet at the senior or junior level, Galat said she is excited to take her first trip abroad and soak up whatever she can from both her teammates and the overall experience.
“There’s always so much to learn in whatever you do, but being a part of a team like this is an experience that doesn’t come often,” said Galat, a Food Science major at A&M. “Getting to know all these swimmers as friends and teammates will be surreal. I want to enjoy where I am (on Team USA, in Europe) as much as I can; this is an experience of a lifetime.
“It’s always been my goal to make an international team, so it’s pretty surreal to see it actually happen, and a huge step forward in my swimming career.”
And what about swimming professionally after she finishes her studies next year at Texas A&M?
Has her success the past two summers made her want even more from her swimming career?
“We’ll see if opportunities come up,” said Galat, who values the ongoing support and love she receives from her parents as motivation to succeed in all parts of her life. “As much as I love swimming, professional swimming is a whole new level and new life that seems very exciting to me.
“I’m leaning toward finishing up my swimming career this year, but there are more questions that need to be answered, so I’m still undecided.”