FAST's Countdown to Olympic Trials: Michael Klueh
Only four weeks remain until the start of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. FAST currently has seven swimmers qualified to compete. In the time remaining, our website will feature a weekly update that highlights one of these athletes. We hope this will impart wisdom to our younger swimmers and their families about the highest level of our sport. Sacrifices are made for success and challenges are endured for excellence. FAST is privileged to have wonderful role models right here in Fullerton.
This week's update features Michael Klueh, an Olympic hopeful in the 200 Freestyle, 400 Freestyle, 1500 Freestyle, and 800 Freestyle Relay. The top two finishers in the 200 Free, 400 Free and 1500 Free earn spots to represent the United States in those events at the London Games. The top six finishers in the 200 Freestyle earn spots on Team USA's 800 Free Relay. Please read on to learn more about Michael's journey in the sport and his incredible seven years on the U.S. National Team.
Michael grew up in Evansville, Indiana where he swam for a local team under the leadership of Donny Brush. When Coach Brush moved to the nearby Carmel Swim Club, Michael followed in order to continue his progress. He had a lot of success early in high school, winning the 1,650-yard Freestyle at the NCSA Junior Nationals during his sophomore year and attending his first U.S. Nationals that summer. Michael raced the 400-meter Freestyle, 1500-meter Freestyle, 200-meter Butterfly, and 400-meter IM, earning second swims in all four events. He finished 10th in the 1500 Free, 14th in the 200 Fly, 15th in the 400 Free, and 23rd in the 400 IM. These accomplishments are outstanding for age 15, especially for a male swimmer. In the nine months that followed this breakthrough summer, Michael continued to shine. In April 2003, he qualified for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 400 Free, 1500 Free, and 200 Fly.
In the summer of 2003, Carmel announced coaching changes for the upcoming season. Both of Michael's coaches would be leaving the club. Coach Brush moved to Longhorn Aquatics in Austin, Texas and Michael decided to follow suit. He moved to Austin where he joined Longhorn Aquatics, lived with a host family, and completed his last two years of high school. Moving away from home at a young age was a challenge -- one that Michael notes as the greatest obstacle he has overcome to date -- but he confronted it head-on and had a great year. He raced the 200 Fly, 400 Free, and 1500 Free at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials in Long Beach, California. He qualified for the Semi-Finals of the 200 Fly and 400 Free and ended up finishing 12th and 13th, respectively. One month later at the U.S. Open, Michael placed second in the 400 Free with a time of 3:57.01, a few tenths faster than he was in Long Beach. More importantly, this time earned him a spot on his first National Junior Team.
One year after making one major life decision, Michael was faced with another -- where would he attend college? For Michael, this decision was not as difficult as it is for many high schoolers. He had fallen in love with the city of Austin and knew that the University of Texas was the place for him. In the Fall of 2005, Michael began his freshman year at Texas. He enjoyed an outstanding four years with the college team, consistently placing in the Top 8 at Division I NCAAs in the 200-yard Freestyle, 500-yard Freestyle, and 1,650-yard Freestyle. He was a member of the 2008 NCAA Champion 800-yard Freestyle Relay team. He and his Texas teammates set the American Record in the event with a time of 6:10.55! Michael graduated as the school recordholder in the 400 IM (3:45.31), 500 Free (4:10.00), 1000 Free (8:46.88), 1,650 Free (14:36.07), and 800 Free Relay (6:10.55).
Michael's training regimen at Texas was grueling to say the least. On average at the height of the season, he and his distance teammates swam about 80,000 yards over the course of nine to ten workouts. One set that they did a lot was 6 x 1,000 on 10:00. All were strong efforts. Sometimes, for an even greater challenge, the coaches would modify the set so that the first and fourth were on a 10:30 interval, second and fifth on 10:00, and third and sixth on 9:30 -- yes, that is 57 seconds per 100 yards!
Michael's Long Course seasons during college were also fantastic, highlighted by Top 50 World Rankings in one or more events every year beginning in 2005. As his teammates will attest, he is one of the most consistent trainers out there and this is mirrored in his performance success. Seven consecutive years on the U.S. National Team is an incredible achievement in and of itself, but Michael has also improved his times every year. He has amassed an impressive amount of international competitive experience. He represented the United States at the World University Games three times -- 2005, 2007, and 2011 -- winning multiple medals at each meet. At the 2011 meet he won gold in the 800 Free and silver in the 400 Free. Michael also competed in the Pan Pacific Championships (2006 and 2010) and the Duel in the Pool (2011). He knows that he has gained valuable experience from each big competition in the past four years and looks forward to applying it at Trials this summer. "I used to get to meets and end up doing crazy warm-ups. I would do a lot of really fast stuff just to prove to myself that I was still good at swimming. Realistically, thirty minutes before my race I was probably just making myself tired. Now I just get myself warmed up and do pace, but not really worry about the pace. I am confident that I can swim fast when it counts."
After graduating from Texas, Michael made the move to Fullerton to train under Coach Urbanchek here at FAST. Since then, he has gained great momentum, highlighted by second place finishes in the 400 Free at Summer Nationals in both of the last two years. At the 2008 Trials in Omaha, Michael took 5th in the 400 Free, 11th in the 200 Free, and 17th in the 1500 Free, all tremendous improvements from his finishes in 2004. Similar improvement this time around would place Michael on the 2012 Olympic Team in one or more of his events. With one week remaining of altitude training camp, Michael is pleased with the way his training is going. He is looking forward to racing at the Santa Clara Grand Prix next week, May 31st-June 3rd and to the final stretch of preparation for Omaha.
Good luck, Michael! We are rooting for you!