SPA at the Olympic Trials - Part V


SPA at the Trials

Beginning in 1988, Saint Petersburg Aquatics has been represented at every version of the US Olympic Team Trials - Swimming. There have been nine Trials in that timeframe including the upcoming event in 2021. These are the athletes who swam for SPA or were still affiliated with SPA but were in college or were professionals at Trials. In this last installment, we look at the upcoming Trials.


The COVID-19 Pandemic has had a profound impact on the world and the sport of swimming. The Olympic Games, scheduled for 2020 in Tokyo, Japan, were delayed by a year which meant that the Olympic Trials were also delayed by a year. The qualifying period was extended to May 30, 2021. In addition, for safety reasons related to the disease and large gatherings of people, Trials were split into two meets, Wave I and Wave II. Wave I would consist of the ‘slower’ qualifiers who had made the original cuts. Wave II consist of the faster swimmers with a qualifying time equal to or faster than the 41st qualifier as of January 26, 2021. The top two finishers in each event at Wave I would also qualify for the Wave II meet. As long as the swimmer qualifies for Wave II in one event, they can swim all events for which they have qualified with the original cuts. The Wave II meet would be the meet where the actual Olympic team would be selected. Wave I finished on June 7, 2021and Wave II begins June 13, 2021. All of SPA swimmers will be swimming in Wave II. Omaha, Nebraska The Trials returns to Omaha and the CHI Arena for the fourth time. Spectators will be allowed up to 50% capacity or approximately 7000 spectators. It will be the first Trials since 2000 without Michael Phelps, but it Will have Ryan Lochte, Caleb Dressel, Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel. Had the meet not been delayed, three swimmers with a SPA pedigree would have been competing. With the delay, SPA will be listed as the primary designation or secondary designation for seven (7) athletes including two athletes who came to SPA to train when their pools in New Jersey closed or only allowed limited capacity.

Robert Finke

Finishing 7th at the2016 Trials was really the launchpad for Bobby. In the past five years he has competed for the USA at the 2016 Junior Pan Pacifics, the 2017 FINA World Championships, and the 2018 Pan Pacifics. He won 4 state high school titles and was named 2017-18 Mr. Swimmer for the State of Florida. He was a member of the 2016-17 National Junior Team and has been a member of the National Team since 2017. In 2018 he graduated high school and entered the University of Florida where he has won four SEC titles (3 in the 1650Y Freestyle, 1 in the 400Y IM) and two NCAA Titles (1650Y Freestyle and 400Y IM). At the Phillips 66 National Championships he has 1 gold and 2 silver medals in the 1500M Freestyle, 1 gold and 1 bronze in the 800M Freestyle, 1 gold in the 400M IM, and 1 bronze in the 400M Freestyle. In 2019 he won the high point award for the meet. He currently owns the Junior Pan Pacific 1500M and 800M Freestyles records, and the American/U.S. Open/NCAA/SEC/University of Florida records in the 1650Y Freestyle. For Trials, Bobby Finke has qualifying cuts in the 200M Backstroke, 400M IM, 400M Freestyle, 800M Freestyle, and the 1500M Freestyle. In Omaha, he will only swim three of those events: 400M IM, prelims and finals on June 13th, 800M Freestyle, prelims on June 16th, finals on June 17th, and the 1500M Freestyle, prelims on June 19th, finals on June 20th.

Caleb Kravitz

Caleb Kravitz is competing in his first Olympic Trials in 2021. A noted age group and high school swimmer, Caleb won the Florida 1A state title in the 500Y Freestyle as a junior. Injuries prevented him from defending his title his senior year. He achieved qualifying times for the U.S. Open and U.S. Junior Nationals. Caleb graduated from Shorecrest Preparatory in 2020 and entered the University of Florida that fall where he is currently a rising sophomore. Caleb Kravitz achieved his first Olympic Trial cut in the 800M Freestyle in August 2020 at the SPA-AAC Dual meet. His time was 8:10.20. He later lowered that time to 8:08.55 achieved at the ISCA International Senior meet in March of 2021. At that same meet, Caleb also got his qualifying cut in the 1500M Freestyle with a 15:44.83. He will be swimming those events on June 16-17 (800M Freestyle) and June 19-20 (1500M Freestyle).

Melanie Margalis

Melanie Margalis returns to Omaha for her fourth Trials. After making the Olympic team in 2016 and bringing home a gold medal, Melanie has become a fixture on the national and international swimming scene. Since 2016 Trials she has competed at both the 2017 and 2019 FINA World Championships bringing home 1 gold in 2017 and 1 gold and 1 silver in 2019. Competing at the 2018 Pan Pacifics, she returned home with a silver medal in the 400M IM. Also in 2018 at the FINA Short Course Worlds, Melanie hauled in one gold and three silver medals. In 2017 at the Phillips 66 National Championships, she won the 200M IM and finished 3rd in the 200M Freestyle. Returning to Nationals in 2018, Melanie came away with silver in the 200m IM and bronze in the 400M IM. She is a seven-time member of the U.S. National team. To cap things off, Melanie competed for the Cali Condors in the International Swim League. Heading into Omaha, Melanie will be swimming the 400M IM (prelims/finals June 13th), the 200M Freestyle (prelims/semifinals June 15th, finals June 16th), the 200M IM (prelims/semifinals June 15th, finals June 16th), and the 100M Freestyle (prelims/semifinals June 17th, finals June 18th).

Peyton Palsha

Peyton Palsha returned to St. Petersburg High School for her senior year. She placed 2nd in the state high school championships in the 200Y IM and the 500Y Freestyle that year. She holds the SPHS records for the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 500 free, 200 IM, 200 free relay and the 200 IM relay. After high school graduation, Peyton entered the University of Arkansas in the fall of 2017. She was consistently the teams top distance swimmer and qualified for the NCAA Championships all four years. At the 2021 SEC Championships, Peyton finished 2nd in the 1650Y Freestyle. She graduated in April 2021 with a Bachelor’s degree in Horticulture, Landscape, and Turf Science. Due to the Covid pandemic, the NCAA offered every fall and winter sport athlete an extra year of eligibility. Peyton elected to take that off and will be swimming for and studying for her Master’s degree at the University of Georgia. Peyton achieved three 2021 Trials cuts: the 400M Freestyle (prelims/finals June 14), the 1500M Freestyle (prelims June 15th, finals June 16th), and the 800 Freestyle (prelims June 18th, finals June 19th).

Grant Sanders

Grant Sanders had taken a year’s leave from the University of Arizona at the time of the 2016 Trials. In 2017 Grant was named to the U.S. World University team, competing in the 200M IM. Following that achievement, Grant decided to transfer to the University of Florida as a sophomore where he continued to have success. He qualified for NCAA Championships all three years at Florida. At SEC’s, Grant took 3rd in the 400Y IM and the 200Y Breaststroke in 2019 and in 2020, wss 2nd in the 400Y IM and 3rd in the 200Y Breaststroke. He earned three All-American honors at Florida and holds several top 10 school times. After completing his college eligibility, Grant continued working on his degree which he received in April, 2021 and swimming for the Gator Swim Club in Gainesville. In Omaha, Grant is entered in the 400M IM (prelims/finals June 13th), the 100M Breaststroke (prelims/semifinals June 13th, finals June 14th), the 200M Breaststroke (prelims/semifinals June16th. Finals June 17th), and the 200M IM (prelims/semifinals June 17th, finals June 18th). .

Jack Alexy and Matthew Fallon

The Covid pandemic disrupted swimming all over the country as pools closed during the height of the pandemic and reopened slowly with limited availability. New Jersey was such a place. As a result, two swimmers elected to come to Florida and train with SPA over the past several months. Both are members of the Somerset Valley YMCA swim team and SPA will be listed as a secondary recognition. Both are ranked in the top 20 of the country’s high school senior swimmers. Both are members of the U.S. Junior National Team. Both have won YMCA National titles. Both were on the 2019 U.S. FINA Junior World Championships Team. Jack Alexy is a sprinter who has committed to the University of California, Berkley. In Omaha he is entered in the 100M Backstroke (prelims/semifinals June 14th, finals June 15th), the 100M Freestyle (prelims/semifinals June 16th, finals June 17th), and the 50M Freestyle (prelims/semifinals June 19th, finals June 29th). Matthew Fallon in a breaststroker/IM’er who has committed to Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania. In Omaha Matthew is entered in the 100M Breaststroke (prelims/semifinals June 13th, finals June 14th) and the200M Breaststroke (prelims/semifinals June 16th, finals June 17th)

The next email will have more pictures of our SPA Olympic Trials team and the link to watch all of the action beginning today, Sunday, June 13!

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