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Eric Peterson, Published June 23 2012

Three area swimmers prepare for U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials

Fargo - The last time Keri Hehn competed in the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials, she felt stressed.

Hehn was a favorite to earn one of the Olympic spots, and the anticipation was difficult to manage.

“I really felt like I had so much to lose if I didn’t make it,” Hehn said of the 2008 Trials. “I really didn’t watch any of the meet, because I was in my hotel room and I was so nervous I like couldn’t eat. The anticipation of four years had kind of built up.”

This year’s Trials start Monday in Omaha, Neb. They are likely the last for Hehn, who has competed in the Trials three times previous. Hehn, 31, has a top-eight time in the women’s 200-meter breaststroke. She is also competing in the 100 breaststroke.

“I really feel like I have nothing to lose,” said Hehn, a former University of Minnesota and Fargo North swimmer. “This time I feel like I don’t have as much pressure. I want to go and be competitive and race how I know how to race and hopefully the result will be good.”

Hehn is one of three swimmers with ties to the Fargo-Moorhead area at the Trials. Ronnie Hehn, Keri’s brother, will compete in the men’s 100 breaststroke. Luke Pechmann has qualified in the 50 and 100 freestyle.

Both Ronnie Hehn, 26, and Pechmann, 22, swam at Moorhead High. Ronnie Hehn is a former University of Indiana swimmer, while Pechmann just finished his career at the University of Arizona.

“It’s awesome,” said Pat Anderson, the former head coach at Moorhead High who is now the head coach at Fargo South. “There are a lot of coaches that can go their whole career and not be able to get athletes of that caliber to be able to work with. I feel fortunate to work with two talented guys as they are.”

Keri Hehn nearly made the Olympic team at the 2008 Trials, finishing in fourth place in the 200 breaststroke. The top two finishers in most events make the team.

She started teaching at a private school in the Los Angeles area this past school year. That made her training more challenging.

She would swim from 6 to 8 a.m. prior to each school day.

“When this teaching job opened up, I couldn’t say no, even though it was an Olympic year,” said Keri Hehn, who said she has learned to train smarter. “It’s been a little difficult as far as having to work all day. But at the same, I’ve had such an amazing year at the school, I think it has taken some of the pressure off.”

Ronnie Hehn, who also made the 2008 Trials, has taken a non-traditional path back to the Trials. He isn’t part of a sizable swim club and is years removed from his college career.

He’s done his training for the most part at various open swims in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

“I’ve utilized local meets pretty much exclusively,” said Ronnie Hehn, who is an assistant swimming coach at Fargo South. “I have not swum out of the region in four years. … Mostly I’m swimming around 10-year-old kids, high school kids. These are the type of meets I go to. I need to maintain the level I was at in college while not being surrounded by that.”

This is also the second Trials for Pechmann, who unlike Ronnie Hehn, is part of a major club, the Tucson Ford Dealers Aquatics. Pechmann said his club has more than 50 swimmers set to compete at the Trials.

“I’m really excited because I have just learned a ton in the last few years,” said Pechmann, who plans to continue his swimming career past these Trials even though he’s finished his college career.

“I’m not afraid to train another four years and see what happens in 2016.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com