Avon’s Madison Kennedy continues to chart her own path in pro swimming

Avon native Madison Kennedy will be competing in the 50 meter freestyle at the U.S. nationals on Saturday, looking for a berth on the U.S. team for the world championships in July. (John D. Simmons photo courtesy Charlotte Observer)

Avon native Madison Kennedy has always been a free spirit with a unique view on swimming – especially when compared to some of her SwimMAC teammates and competitors in the pool.

Falling 0.15 of a second short of earning a berth in the 50-meter freestyle on the U.S. Olympic team a year ago hasn’t changed her philosophy.

Kennedy is a professional, world-class swimmer but swimming is a part of her life – not her whole life. She still works two part-time jobs in Charlotte, North Carolina where she has lived since 2011 when she joined SwimMAC’s Team Elite.

Kennedy, 29, is still training and representing SwimMAC as she prepares for this week’s Phillips 66 U.S. national championship meet in Indianapolis that is also serving as trials for the U.S. team to compete in July’s world championship meet in Hungary.

She’s more on her own than ever but it fits her life today. The Charlotte Observer caught up her last week to discuss her training methods, her relationship with SwimMAC coach and founder David Marsh and the pressure of professional swimming where 0.15 of a second can mean the difference between a berth on the Olympic team and going home.

“If you put a lot of pressure (on yourself) like ‘This meet determines my value’ then I think that’s a problem,” Kennedy told Theoden Janes of the Charlotte Observer. “My importance is not placed upon the success of one swim meet.”

At last summer’s Olympic Trials, Kennedy has her best-ever time in the 50 freestyle but finished third. Only the top two swimmers advanced to the Olympics. Her time of 24.48 seconds was her third fastest performance in the 50 freestyle and the 12th fastest time in the world at that point of the year.

“I just remember looking up (after hitting the wall) and waiting for it to hurt – but it didn’t. I was like, ‘OK,’’ Kennedy told Janes about the Olympic Trials final.

Life continued. Kennedy is planning to get married to her long-time boyfriend Eric Lane later this year. And she kept swimming.

In December, she represented the United States at the FINA World Championships (25 meter) in Windsor, Ontario, and won two medals. She swam on the gold medal winning 4×100 women’s freestyle team and earned a bronze medal in the 50 meter freestyle.

This spring, she has competed in three Arena Pro Series meets in the 50 and 100 freestyle. She was second in the 50 free in Mesa, Arizona, and Atlanta and third in Indianapolis. Her best time was a 24.99 in Atlanta in April. She did swim a 25.22 to win the 50 free at the SwimMAC Ultra Swim meet in Charlotte on June 1.

Kennedy is looking for a spot in the U.S. team in the 50 freestyle for the upcoming world championships on July 23-30 in Hungary. Again, it won’t be easy. She needs to be one of the top two finishers in the race.

Simone Manuel, who was second in the 50 free and first in the 100 free at the Olympics in Rio, is the favorite. She has continued to improve this spring, coming 0.02 of a second from tying Dara Torres’ American record of 24.07 seconds.

Manuel, 20, and Kennedy are the only two American swimmers to have broken 25 seconds this spring.

Olympian Abbey Weitzeil, Katrina Konopka, Olivia Smoliga, Lia Neil and Amanda Weir are also expected to be contenders. Kennedy beat Smoliga to win the 50 free at the Charlotte UltraSwim by 0.36 of a second.

At the nationals, the 50 free will be held on Saturday, July 1.

Kennedy graduated from Avon High in 2005 and the University of California-Berkeley in 2010.

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