Lake Oswego native Nick Simons has long been known as one of Oregon's best boys swimmers.
But Simons has now made himself known on a much bigger stage — the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Simons, 17, showed he was up to the challenge, notching a 16th-place finish in the men's 100-yard backstroke and following up with a 17th-place effort in the men's 200 backstroke.
"I am extremely satisfied with my performances at the meet," Simons said. "There were years of work and planning put into it, and to watch all of it put into action was so rewarding to see."
Simons, a six-time Class 6A state champion in Oregon at Jesuit High School, opened his Olympic Trials — held June 13-20 at CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska — by swimming 54.52 seconds to place 16th in the preliminaries of the men's 100 backstroke on June 14 and earn a berth in the semifinals.
That time was a personal best that lifted him from the 41st seed to finishing 16th and earning a berth in the semifinals. Simons' time now ranks ninth all-time in U.S. history for boys ages 17-18.
"There were years of work and planning put into it, and to watch all of it put into action was so rewarding to see."
— Nick Simons
He came back later in the day to swim a 55.09 in the 100 back semifinals where he placed 16th again. While slower than his preliminary time, it was still under the Olympic Trials cut and qualified as the 21st fastest in 17-18 boys U.S. history.
Simons wasn't done at the Trials, either. He also competed in the preliminaries of the men's 200 backstroke on June 17, posting a 2:00.81 to finish 17th and just miss another spot in the semifinals.
While Simons didn't get a second swim in the 200, he was the first alternate for semifinals, and again, the top FINA 18U-ranked junior finisher. He is the youngest male swimmer to reach the finals session in any event at the 2021 Olympic Trials.
Further, he is currently the No. 2 junior (FINA 18U rankings) in the world in both the 100 and 200 backstroke, according to current standings, and ranks in the top 50 in the world (all ages) for the 100 backstroke.
"My biggest goal for the trials was to place in the top 16 and (get to the) semifinal," Simons said. "Also, (I wanted) to be a top junior … swimmer at the meet and qualify for the United States National Junior team."
With his top junior finishes at the OIympic Trials, Simons has earned a berth on the U.S. National Junior Team in the fall and will represent the United States at the Junior World Championships. Should the team travel later this summer, Simons will get to compete in Kazan, Russia (although COVID-19 restrictions may delay this event).
"The key to my success was the unwavering support from all of my coaches, teammates, friends and all who've believed in me over the years," he said, crediting coach Emily Melina of Lake Oswego Swim Club, Michael Kinross of the Sandpipers of Nevada, his family and all the support he's received from friends in Lake Oswego. "Every single person who has believed in me and supported me over my entire swimming career from age 8 has had an incredible impact and has helped me get to this point."
Simons currently swims for the Sandpipers of Nevada; because of the lengthy pandemic-related shutdowns of sports and facilities in Oregon, Simons and his family temporarily moved to Nevada last fall. They then made the move permanent in January.
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