Building on Solid Debut Season with Cornell Swimming, PHS Alum Stange Makes Olympic Trials in 200 Back
Even though Will Stange was sidelined by illness for over a week in the tapering phase as the Cornell University men’s swimming team prepared for the Ivy League championship meet this past February, he still produced a personal best in the 200-yard backstroke at the competition.
Former Princeton High standout Stange posted a time of 1:45.1 to place 13th, achieving the third-fastest time for the event in Cornell program history.
“It was a two seconds drop from my previous best of 1:47.3,” said Stange. “Two weeks into the taper, I got a staph infection on my stomach and I was out of the water for nine days. I got back with one week left in the taper. I actually did a good job.”
Heartened by that performance, Stange set his sights this summer on making the 2:03.79 qualifying standard in the 200-meter back for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.
After the Ivy championships, Stange resumed training at Cornell, swimming 5,000-6,000 yards a day and hitting the weight room hard to increase his strength. Coming home this summer, he has been competing for the Princeton Piranhas club and putting in around 8,000 yards a day in the pool. He recently went to an intense 12-day training camp at 7,000-feet altitude in Santa Fe, N.M.
Coming into the New Jersey Long Course Junior Olympics hosted by Scarlet Aquatics at Rutgers last week, Stange was primed to hit the qualifying standard. “I was pretty sure I was going to beat it,” said Stange. “I had no doubt.”
As Stange got ready to hit the water on Thursday morning for his preliminary heat in the 200 back, he sensed that his time had come.
“When I got behind the blocks, I felt perfect,” said Stange. “I was completely in the zone, nothing was wrong with my body. I felt no aches and I was loose. If I was 99 percent sure I could qualify before, I felt 100 percent sure as I got into the blocks.”
Stange’s confidence proved justified as he posted a time of 2:03.56 in winning the race and booking his spot in the Olympic Trials, which will be held in Omaha, Neb. next summer from June 26-July 3.
“I couldn’t tell splits, I was so into the zone,” said Stange, who placed second in the 200 back finals later that day with a time of 2:05.57. “I could hear people cheering on the last lap so I knew I was close. I swam as hard as I ever had. In the last six strokes I slowed, I was dying.”
For Stange, making the trials was a dream come true. “It is something I have wanted to do since I heard about it,” said Stange, noting that two other former PHS stars, Nina Rossi and Victoria Cassidy, competed at the trials in recent years. “I was really excited, I did want to go faster.”
Having qualified for the trials in the 200 back, Stange hopes to make it in the 100 back as well.
“Hopefully I will get close in the 100 back,” said Stange. “I did 59.4 in first 100 on Thursday and 57.1 is the cut. I changed my technique in the 100. I always used a straight arm, now I am more of a bent arm with an up sweep and a down sweep. I rotate better and have a better flow.”
With his sophomore season at Cornell on the horizon, Stange is poised to make more of an impact this coming winter.
“I am looking forward to making more noise in the league next year, the Ivy championships are going to be exciting,” said Stange.
“College is a whole other situation. It is great when people get excited for events other than their own. It gets so loud on the deck.”
While Stange’s breakthrough last Thursday was a great moment for him, he acknowledges that it hasn’t always been a smooth ride for him in the water.
“It is the end of a long road and the beginning of another,” said Stange. “There were four or five times where I seriously thought of quitting. I would get in the pool for the 100,000th time and it is a cold morning and I am really sore from the day before and the coach gives you the hardest set of the day. I am thinking do I need to keep doing this. I kept my goals in mind. I know that swimming is the best thing that ever happened to me with the friends I have made and the experiences I have had.”