Three Penn Swimmers Compete at 2012 Olympic Trials

When Brendan McHugh was about 12 or 13 years old, he realized the 2012 Olympic Games would occur the same year he would graduate from college, so he set two goals for himself: to attend an Ivy League university and to qualify for the Olympics in swimming.

In May, McHugh graduated from Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences. On June 25, he made it to the semi-finals at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials in Omaha, Neb. Rising juniors Rhoads Worster and Shelby Fortin joined McHugh at what is considered one of the most competitive swim meets in the world.


Swimmers from across the nation, whose times qualified them to compete in the trials, raced over three days in a contest that determined who will be on the U.S Olympic Team.

McHugh became the first Penn swimmer to ever reach the Olympic Trials semi-finals by finishing first in his 100-meter breaststroke heat, with a time of 1:01.30. That win advanced him to the semifinals, where he finished fourth in his race with a time of 1:04.04. Overall, McHugh was .21 seconds behind eighth place, the spot needed to advance to the finals. He also made it to the semi-final round in the 200-meter breaststroke event.

During his Penn athletic career, McHugh served as captain of the swim team and set University records in the 200-meter freestyle, as well as the 200-meter and 100-meter breaststroke.

He says his strategy for the trials was to “swim smart,” paying particular attention to “the little things, like turns and starts” that he says “can get sloppy” when a swimmer is focusing on speed.

Worster, who was recently elected to be the Penn team’s newest captain, is also at the trials, competing in the 100-meter butterfly event. To prepare, Worster, who lives in Yardley, Pa., swam about four hours each day at Penn, and lifted weights every other day.

“This is such an unbelievable opportunity. I just want to go there and take it all in,” he said before departing for the competition. “I’m not nervous. I’m a really competitive person so I’m amped up to race. I want to get there and do it.”

Fortin is swimming the 400-meter freestyle at the trials. To get ready she trained with her YMCA club team in Connecticut. At Penn, she has set four University records and has been honored as a two-time First Team All Ivy athlete.

Three incoming Penn freshman are also competing at the trials—Chris Swanson, of Tampa, Fla., Bradley Wachenfeld, of Basking Ridge, NJ, and Annie McCotter, of Cherry Hill, NJ—who will join the Penn swimming team in September.

The U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials will be broadcast on NBC and NBC Sports Network, June 25 through July 2. Find a schedule of television coverage at the NBC Olympics website.

Text by Tanya Barrientos
Video by Kurtis Sensenig