Community Sports

Fox Island will be well-represented at the Olympic Trials

Posted on June 11th, 2024 By:

Two Fox Islanders who won state championships for the Gig Harbor Tides will compete in the upcoming Olympic Swim Trials in Indianapolis.

Gig Harbor sophomore sensation Aiden Hammer qualified for the United State Olympic Trials in Indianapolis, set for June 15 through 23. Hammer’s goal is to compete in the 2024 Summer Olympics that begin July 26 in Paris.

Many athletes around here compete for conference and state championships. The Gig Harbor  area routinely produces athletes who’ve earned statewide recognition.

But competing for a position on the U.S. Olympic team is definitely on another level.

Aiden Hammer, currently wrapping up his sophomore year in high school, will compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials later this month. Photo courtesy Aiden Hammer

Two state titles in one year of competition

Besides, Hammer already took care of the conference and state title stuff. He won Class 3A state titles in the 200 and 500 freestyle as a ninth grader in 2023.

Hammer took this season off from high school events to concentrate on the Olympic trials. His 6-foot-4 inch frame churns through the water like a torpedo locked onto a submarine.

The freestyle specialist will compete in the 400-meter, 800-meter and 1,500-meter freestyle races at the Olympic trials.

Hammer has been competitively swimming since age 8, when his mom got him involved in the sport. He describes his style as more of a puller than a kicker, as he mainly uses his arms for power. Those arms are 6 feet, 9 inches wide from fingertip to fingertip and are anchored by a wide set of shoulders that allow him to speed through the water.

Aiden Hammer with his grandmother and a stopwatch that shows his Olympic Trials-qualifying time at the U.S. Nationals. Photo courtesy Aiden Hammer

Hammer has the length and lung capacity to compete at an elite level, but he also has an ingredient that can’t be measured. He’s a natural racer and racers are usually born, not taught. There is something in their blood and many of the top swimmers at the trials have an almost maniacal desire to be first.

“Racing is what drives me,” Hammer said.

A big stage, literally

The Trials will take place in Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. Organizers recently told The Athletic that they expect close to 30,000 fans for opening night, which would make it the largest crowd ever to witness a swimming meet live.

They will be the first Olympic swimming trials held inside a football stadium using a portable, raised-edge pool that took two months to construct and will hold over two million gallons of water.

“Most of my thoughts are just of excitement to be able to compete and plus it will be held inside an NFL stadium,” Hammer said. “It truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. My goal is to just swim as fast as I possibly can. I’m really excited to see how fast I can swim since I haven’t been fully rested for a meet in just about a year now.”

How hard would it be for someone who just finished his sophomore year in high school to make the U.S. Olympic team?

“It will be difficult,” he said. “But if I don’t make the Olympic team, I am hoping to represent Team USA in Australia this year for the (Junior Pan Pacific Games, in August in Australia) and will be looking to make the next Summer Olympic team that will compete in Los Angeles in 2028.”

The 2024 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials will be at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Photo courtesy USA Swimming

Huston had no problem making the trials

Also qualifying for the Olympic trials is Drew Huston, a 2022 Gig Harbor graduate who now stars in the pool at Cal Poly-San Luis Obisbo. Huston qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke events.

He is also a former high school Class 3A individual medley state champion who holds six Gig Harbor school records. He uses his 6-foot-7 frame to propel his body down the pool in elite level times.

Huston helped Cal Poly to a program-best fourth-place conference finish and was the leadoff swimmer on the Mustangs’ 400-meter medley relay team, which set a school record.

Huston also set Cal Poly records in the 100-meter backstroke (46.56) and the 200-meter backstroke (1:41.32). He won Cal Poly’s best performance award in each of the last two years.

Huston is currently training at Cal Poly and figures to have a chance to make the team.

“My goals are to get back to the semifinals and finals and go a personal best time,” Huston said. “I think it’s going to be a really fast meet and will be very exciting for the fans to watch. It would mean a lot to me to be able to represent our country at the Olympics, it is something really special.”

Gig Harbor grad Drew Huston now swims at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. Photo courtesy Drew Huston

Close friends and Fox Islanders

Tides high school coach Mike Kelly is impressed by what this duo has accomplished.

“To have any athlete participating in the U.S. Olympic Trials is fantastic, but to have two athletes participate is sensational and a rare achievement,” he said.

Kelly said the two local swimmers have many similarities.

“Both are very focused, goal-driven athletes who dedicate a tremendous amount of time and effort to achieve their successes. Both are good friends, teammates on the King Aquatics teams and both live on Fox Island. They are in rarefied air at the trials and we wish them nothing but the best in Indianapolis.”

Gig Harbor graduate Drew Huston set two Cal Poly school records and qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials. Photo courtesy of Drew Huston