Woodbury Teen Qualifies for Olympic Trials

Swimmer Mickayla Hinkle, a student at the Math and Science Academy, heads to Nebraska this month for a shot at the London Games.

The top two advance and she’s seeded 65.

Still, Mickayla Hinkle has to feel pretty good about herself.

The Woodbury 15-year-old recently qualified for the Olympic trials and will head to Omaha, Neb., later this month to swim the 100 and 200 backstroke for a chance at the London Games.

Mickayla, a student at the , was among 175 in the nation to qualify in the 100, where she’s seeded 65, and one of 205 in the 200, seeded 109.

“Backstroke is my specialty,” said Mickayla, who swims year round with the St. Croix Swim Club.

It all began for Mickayla as it does for many youngsters, taking swimming lessons at the Maplewood Community Center. She quickly became one of the state’s top swimmers, and she secured one of her long-term goals with her Olympic-qualifying times. (Mickayla said her dad wanted her to do it before college.)

The feeling of looking up at the clock after the March race that now gives her a shot at the Olympics?

“I can’t even explain it,” Mickayla said. “I didn’t even know what to do, I was so excited. It was amazing.”

Her skills in the pool weren’t passed down from her parents, though her father, Keith, swam a bit in high school in the Chicago area.

“I just know enough to be dangerous,” he said.

Mickayla’s mother, Aline, played tennis in high school, “and she doesn’t swim,” Keith said.

Despite her obvious talents in the pool, Mickayla said she always gets nervous before a race.

“I try not to show it, but I guess it happens to everyone,” she said.

One of the things she enjoys most about swimming is meeting people and making friends. That includes someone with experience at the top level.

Mickayla is coached at Woodbury’s by Olga Splichalova Espinosa, who was part of the Czech national team for 11 years and twice competed in the Olympics in the 1990s.

“I just try to make her proud,” Mickayla said.

Outside of the pool, Mickayla also runs, rows and rock climbs.

“I try to do other stuff besides swimming to mix it up and have some fun,” she said.

Mickayla also participates in student council at MSA, art club and competition, and she hangs out with her friends, “as much as I can.”

While Mickayla said she understands that making the Olympic team is a long shot, her next challenge is trying to make the U.S. junior national team.

“But the ultimate goal for me is having fun in swimming,” she said. “The Olympics would be a huge honor. If it happens, it happens. But I’m just focused on having fun.”


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