Longhorns Olympic Trials spotlight: Karlee Bispo
May 31, 2012
Elissa Schneiderman, Texas Media Relations
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas swimmer Karlee Bispo and her family love spending time together outdoors, especially on the water. Growing up in Modesto, California meant the beach was only an hour-and-a-half's drive from home.
"Whether it was a family reunion or a family trip, I just love being outdoors and being around the water," Bispo said. "That's where I get my passion for swimming. I just can't get enough of it. I love everything about being at the beach. I definitely miss that being here in Austin."
But swimming isn't the only water sport about which Bispo is enthusiastic--she loves to surf. In her early teen years, she learned to surf from her uncle, and after purchasing her own board, she's been able to share the sport with the rest of her family and friends.
"Surfing came naturally. I could paddle well because of swimming," Bispo said. "I could get back out (into the surf) really quickly."
In Austin, however, Bispo is focused mostly on her swimming. At the NCAA Championships in March, Bispo earned seven All-America honors. Bispo also set two school records. With a time of 1:42.78 in the 200 yard freestyle, she broke her own school record of 1:42.81 and finished second overall. In the 100 yard freestyle, her time of 47.41 also secured her a spot at the top of the school's record-board and placed fourth overall.
Despite Bispo's prolific career as a Longhorn, the senior was anxious going into the NCAA Championships.
"It was my last NCAA meet, but I still felt like a freshman," Bispo said. "I couldn't believe this was it. Once I got to the meet, I was calmer and I was able to enjoy everything about it. I was happy with how it went."
Bispo's not done with swimming, yet. She's now training for the 2012 Olympic Team Trials and has her sights set on London this summer.
"I always want more, so I think there's more left in me," Bispo said. "I'm going to try to leave that all in the pool this summer."
In preparation for the Olympic Trials this June, Bispo has made several key transitions in her training. While her collegiate career was characterized by versatility--she normally swam the 50, 100 and 200 yard freestyle events, as well as the 200 yard individual medley--Bispo is now focusing exclusively on freestyle events.
"The 200 and 100 (freestyle) are my best shots (at making the Olympic Team)," Bispo said. "We're focused on those events. The 50 (freestyle) is at the end of the meet. Hopefully by that point, I'll have already made the team and I'll be doing it for fun."
Bispo has also begun training with the men's team at Texas. She hopes to intensify her workouts and to benefit from being around athletes who have competed in the Olympic games.
"After I finished my (collegiate) season, I just needed to do something that would take my training to the next level because I have pretty big goals this summer," Bispo said. "I knew that I wanted to be training with others who had the same goals as me. There are plenty of them on the men's team, as well as former Olympians who are trying to make the team again. I just needed to be beaten in practice every day and be pushed by people that are much faster than I am. It is going well so far and I'm really enjoying it."
While Bispo is certainly being challenged by her male teammates in practice, she is also pushing back.
"She really likes to bother the guys by beating them in practice," said Texas ex and Olympic gold medalist Brendan Hansen. "It keeps everybody on their toes. That's why (Head Coach) Eddie (Reese) likes bringing people like Karlee into practice. She's going to challenge the other swimmers."
Bispo's former roommate and former teammate on the women's side, Kathleen Hersey, has been training with the men's team for two years. Hersey has helped Bispo in her training move.
"It is fun to get back together with Kathleen," Bispo said. "She has a lot of experience being an Olympian. I'm learning from her and watching her. She's definitely made the transition easy on me and she's given me a lot of advice."
Bispo said she is absorbing a great deal from the Olympians with whom she trains on a daily basis. In addition to Hersey and Hansen, Bispo has been learning from Olympic gold medalist Garrett Weber-Gale.
"I have great influences like Kathleen, Brendan and Garrett," Bispo said. "Garret in particular has been so helpful with my freestyle. They all have so much experience and they're so positive. They have so much energy. I'm happy with my decision and confident in it. And I'm excited to see what happens."
Bispo has experience swimming internationally. As a high school sophomore, Bispo was a member of the National Junior Team and travelled to Australia. This past summer, Bispo represented the US in the World University Games in China.
"This past summer in China I was able to work with different coaches from different teams," Bispo said. "I spent time just watching other athletes, especially from the US, because they're the best college swimmers. I was able to watch the ways they handled themselves and how they raced. I learned so much from the swimmers and the coaches that I think can be applied at Trials this summer and possibly to the Olympics in London."
Getting a taste of what it's like to represent her country has left Bispo wanting more.
"The feeling that you get from representing your country, walking in wearing USA stuff and having everyone cheering for you is unbelievable, so I can't imagine what it would be like to represent the US at the Olympics on the biggest stage," Bispo said. "To be able to experience that would be a life-changing experience."