June 28, 2012
By Andy Conli
FRESNO, Calif. - In 2008, just 2.8 miles up 10th Street from where the Fresno State baseball team captured the College World Series title days earlier, Jeanne Fleck could be found at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb. attending the U.S. Olympic swim trials. Little did she know at the time that she would be returning four years later, but this time with two swimmers from a collegiate program she was about to be starting from scratch.
Fleck took the reins of the Fresno State swimming and diving team on April 19, 2008 to restart a program which had been discontinued after the 2003-04 season. Prior to her time in the Valley, she spent nine years as the head coach at Ohio State and eight years before that at Northern Illinois, where at both schools she coached and trained a number of Olympic hopefuls.
"It is very, very exciting for Fresno State," Fleck said. "For a program that did not even exist during the last Olympic trials, it is quite an accomplishment to have two swimmers represent the university at this year's trials."
The two Bulldogs representing Fresno State are senior Dani Yoho and junior Michelle Dockendorf. Even though the outcome is the same, a trip to Omaha to compete in the Olympic trials, they both took very different paths to get there.
For Dockendorf, reaching the trials is a dream come true. A native of Santa Barbara, Calif., she was splashing around in the water by the time she could walk and started swimming competively at the age of eight. Ever since then, Dockendorf has worked extremely hard in and out of the pool to reach this moment.
"Swimming has taken up most my time, but it's definitely been worth it," Dockendorf said. "I am so used to being in the water and now my efforts have paid off."
On the other hand, it was not until last year that Yoho, a native of Sugar Land, Texas, realized the Olympic trials could be a reality. Through childhood and into her teen years, Yoho was an avid soccer player and did not start swimming until her freshman year of high school.
"I never imagined anything like this growing up," Yoho said. "I only started swimming to stay in shape during the soccer offseason and to get out of PE. It wasn't until I made big improvements last season that I knew the trials were attainable."
Another difference is their events. Yoho will compete in the fast-paced 50m Freestyle while Dockendorf takes on the grueling 200m Breaststroke. The 50 Free is a dead sprint that is only one length of the pool and times average around 25 seconds. In comparison, the 200 Breast is a four-lap marathon usually completed around two minutes 35 seconds.
For training, while both utilize running and weights on top of swimming laps, Dockendorf spends most of her time in the water while Yoho engages in a number of dry land activities which includes parametric training. In total, they each put in 20 hours of training a week to prepare for the competition.
Dockendorf has known for the last two years she would be attending the trials, but Yoho did not qualify until March of this year. Needing a time of 2:35.99 to qualify, Dockendorf easily reached that mark with a time of 2:34.44 during her last club meet before she attended Fresno State. Yoho hit the mark of 26.39 exactly to qualify and advance to Omaha.
"It didn't hit me two years ago when I qualified," Dockendorf said. "But now that it's here, I'm anxious, not nervous, to participate."
When asked about what they are looking forward to the most at the trials, both swimmers came from two different angles.
"I am excited to go and see what it is all about," Yoho said. "It will be amazing to be with the best swimmers in the world, trying to have fun and not stress out."
"I'm looking forward to the professional, business-like atmosphere the trials bring," Dockendorf responded. "There you have to have more mental power than physical."
The one thing that is the same is the advice they have been receiving from their coaches, friends and family: take full advantage of the opportunity and enjoy it.
The preliminary heat for the women's 200m Breaststroke will be held Friday, June 29 and the women's 50m Freestyle will be Sunday, July 1.
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