CHARLOTTE, N.C. - She's going to Rio!
University of California San Diego student-athlete Reilly Boyt was named early Sunday morning to the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Swimming Team for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games this September.
Boyt, a native of Fort Collins, Colo. (Poudre HS), who will be a junior in the UC San Diego swimming and diving program come the fall, is among a group of 21 women and 10 men chosen to represent Team USA in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She is one of 14 first-time Paralympians on the squad.
It was third time's the charm for Boyt, who just completed her third Paralympic Trials on Saturday after beginning her arduous journey ahead of the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games. She broke her own American record in the S6 classification of the 100-meter backstroke in her last of six swims over the three-day meet on Saturday night, earning a gold medal in winning the final in 1:38.67. Boyt also placed second in her class in the 100 breaststroke (1:47.57 prelims, 1:49.40 finals) on Thursday night and 200 individual medley (3:28.40 prelims, 3:24.15 finals) earlier Saturday. Her finals time in the backstroke was over two seconds faster than her preliminary mark of 1:40.98 from that morning.
"I headed into Trials just wanting to see what happens, coming off of some injuries," said an elated Boyt via phone in Charlotte. She was able to compete in just two of 10 meets for the Tritons during this past sophomore campaign. "It was my third (Trials). It was really redemption for me, for one thing, just trying to see what I can do, with an aim to make the Rio team. Now that I've made it, it's absolutely a dream come true. Everything I've worked for, the sacrifices I've made the past few years. Everything I've done, I've made my dreams, my goal, complete.
"I'm so appreciative of my family and my coaches and anyone who has given me support over the last eight years. They all made major sacrifices and had a tremendous impact. They dedicated their time and efforts into helping me achieve my dreams, and I wouldn't be able to say that I'm on this team, without all of them."
Boyt is expected to swim the 100 back, 100 breast, 200 IM and 400 free in Rio, but her exact program will be made official by U.S. Paralympics at a later date. The Paralympic Games run from Sept. 7-18.
"Reilly is the definition of determination," remarked UC San Diego head coach Corrie Falcon, who was unable to attend the Trials as she and husband Ian are expecting their second child. "She has worked hard through various obstacles, and that has paid off in her ticket to Rio. I couldn't be more proud of her."
"I couldn't be happier for Reilly and her family with this achievement," added Triton head coach Daniel Perdew, who was at both the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., and U.S. Paralympic Trials, this past week. "She is an extremely tough, committed, and self-driven athlete. While this meet wasn't perfect, she showed all of those qualities and more with an extremely gutsy performance on the last day. Representing your country at the Paralympics is one of the highest achievements in sports, and I can't think of any athlete more deserving of this honor."
"This is a proud moment for not only the swimming and diving team, but the entire UC San Diego Athletics program," said senior associate athletics director and swimming and diving sport supervisor Ken Grosse. "Qualifying for the Paralympic Games is the pinnacle of athletic achievement, and to see Reilly accomplish that dream is really exciting. We'll all be watching and rooting for her in Rio."
The athletes selected by U.S. Paralympics, a division of the United States Olympic Committee, were notified during a private team announcement for athletes only at 6 a.m. PT inside the Hilton Charlotte Center City. A public announcement was then held at nearby Romare Bearden Park beginning at 8 a.m. PT. Unlike the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in swimming, selection to Team USA is not based solely on placement in finals. Other factors are in play that lead up to a post-Paralympic Trials unveiling.
Boyt departs Charlotte on Monday morning, headed directly home to Colorado. She will spend about a week there with her family, during which time she plans to train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Boyt is set to return on July 11 or 12 to San Diego, where she will work a summer job while resuming preparation for the Paralympic Games with her Triton coaches at the Canyonview Aquatic Center on the UC San Diego campus. She leaves for Houston, Texas, on Aug. 25 for a training trip with Team USA, before the squad moves on to Rio.
"It was amazing having that support in the crowd," concluded Boyt, who had 20 family members in attendance at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center in Charlotte, including her parents and younger brother. "Being able to share this success with them was great. It's always nice to look up after a race and see so many familiar faces cheering you on."