(Cover photo credit: Bill Brymer)
The biggest story coming out of Louisville, Ky., in relation to this year’s Olympic Games is that of Kelsi Worrell. The senior swimmer at the University of Louisville earned a spot on Team USA after posting a 56.48-second finish in the 100-meter butterfly at the U.S. Olympic Trials on June 28. Her time marked the second-fastest in the world this year and the fifth fastest in history. Worrell will be joined in Rio by 2012 Olympic gold medalist Dana Vollmer, who came in second at the Trials with a time of 57.21.
With her time, Worrell will also represent Team USA in the 400-meter individual medley.
Here are 10 things to know about Kelsi Worrell…
1) She’s a native of Mount Holly, New Jersey, but has called Louisville home for the past four years.
Worrell attended the 2012 Olympic Trials as an incoming freshman with U of L’s swimming and diving team. She placed 37th in the 100-butterfly there. In high school, she was a three-time state champion in the same event. She also won the 100-freestyle event and was named New Jersey Swimmer of the Year. In a previous interview with the Louisville Women’s Sports Network (LWSN), Worrell shared, “I remember when I was young some teammates or parents would say, ‘You can go to the Olympics,’ and I was like, ‘Do you understand how challenging that is and the work that is required and the .0001% that actually qualify?’ I think [it] was the [reality] that kept me from dreaming of going.”
2) She will join fellow Angel McCoughtry as the second U.S. Olympian ever from U of L.
McCoughtry graduated from U of L in 2009. She was selected as the overall #1 WNBA Draft pick by the Atlanta Dream and has spent all of her career thus far with that team. She played for the USA’s Women National Basketball Team that won gold at the 2012 Olympics and will compete again in Rio next month.
3) She’s an exercise science major.
At the end of 2015, Worrell had been named to the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll every semester, a Red & Black Scholar-Athlete three times, and a two-time College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) Scholar All-American. She is a three-time Dean’s List recipient and was named the 2015 ACC Women’s Swimming & Diving Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She is also a nine-time Academic All American.
4) The crux of her media attention began at the 2015 NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships.
Worrell entered the 2015 NCAAs after having split a 22.34 in the 50-butterfly at the ACC Championships, which, after extensive research, revealed was the fastest fly split ever performed. Then at the NCAAs, she split a 21.96, becoming the first woman ever under 22 seconds. Also at the NCAAs, she became the champion in both the 100 and 200 butterfly, and set a new American and NCAA record in the 100-butterfly. In the 100 butterfly preliminaries, Worrell broke the American record to become the first woman to go under 50 seconds with her time of 49.89. In the finals later that day, she dropped her time to 49.81 to reset her hours-old American record; the previous American record was set by Olympian Natalie Coughlin in 2002 (50.01 seconds). “There was this picture floating around the first time she broke the American record,” shared Louisville head coach Arthur Albiero in a previous interview with the LWSN. “We are sharing a little hug behind the blocks and everybody is asking me, ‘What is she telling you and what do you say to her?’ And I said, ‘Nothing. I just got close enough to her and she said, ‘I know, I know. I messed up on the second wall. I’ll do better tonight.’ This is an American record performance. First time every anyone’s broken 50 seconds, and her mindset was like, ‘Yea, I messed up the second wall and I’ll do better tonight.'”
5) She completed a two-year sweep of her NCAA butterfly titles while setting a new American record.
Worrell finished the 100-yard butterfly at the 2016 NCAAs in 49.43 seconds, which was an NCAA record and the U.S. Open record. She also picked up her second NCAA Championship with a win in the 200-fly, touching in at 1:50.96. That time ranks as the third-fastest swim of all-time (she also has the second-fastest swim of all time with a time of 1:50.61 set in the preliminary events at that same meet).
6) She’s had her share of success on the international stage and in the realm of world records.
Worrell competed on the U.S. National Team for the 2015 Pan American Games, her first international competition. She cried when she found out she made the team because she had battled through mononucleosis (“mono”) leading up to the qualifier. Worrell went on to win two gold medals and one silver medal. Her split in the 4×100 relay for the silver medal, 57.63 seconds, was not only a Pan Am record but made her the first women to break four minutes. At the USA National Championships, she won two gold and one bronze. At the Duel in the Pool in Indianapolis in December of 2015, which is packed with international competition, she set the new American record for the meet in the 100 butterfly (55.42 seconds), besting the former mark of 55.59 set by Vollmer.
7) She’s the eldest of six kids to Bob and Erica Worrell – and all six of them swim.
Kelsi is often more excited to talk about her younger siblings and their accomplishments than her own. Her sister Taylor is a rising junior freestyle swimmer for the University of South Carolina. Kyle is a rising high school junior who placed 3rd in the 50-yard freestyle at the 2016 YMCA Short Course National Championships. Jared is a rising high school freshman whom Kelsi shared has broken records on his swimming team as well. Lindi is a rising sixth grader who qualified for the 2015 USA Junior Olympics. And the baby of the family is Skylar. “She kind of tags along,” laughed Kelsi in a previous interview with the LWSN. “She’s got so much energy. She’s hysterical,” noting that the six-year-old mainly swims in the summer. One reason in particular that Worrell committed to U of L was because she was offered various scholarships to help alleviate the total cost of attendance. That was important to her, knowing she had five siblings behind her who would want to attend college as well.
8) Perhaps this is a fact about YOU rather than Worrell: You almost forget that she’s heading to the Olympics.
The 22-year-old’s humility has preceded her over the last 1 1/2 years of garnering national and international attention. She’s pretty unassuming; she doesn’t carry a complex with her. She’s overly sweet and extremely warm. Her Christian faith remains a consistent theme she brings up in press conferences. You start to wonder how she ever made it to the most elite levels of athletic performance with such a dominating demeanor of grace and kindness.
9) She has interesting similarities to Louisville’s own Mary T. Meagher.
Meagher, aka “Madame Butterfly”, set world records in the 100-meter fly (57.93 seconds) and the 200-meter fly (2:05.96) at the U.S. Swimming National Championships in 1981. Those records stood for 18 and 19 years, respectively. Meagher went on to win gold medals in both events at the 1984 Olympic Games and earned another gold swimming the butterfly leg of the women’s 4×100-meter medley relay. In an interview with the LWSN earlier this year, Worrell shared, “I got to meet Mary T. last summer and I was so honored because, even now, her times are still incredible and she would be one of the top American swimmers in her events. So I really look up to her.”
10) Worrell lucks up by having the expertise of her coach, Arthur Albiero, in her back pocket.
Albiero is an 18-time All American swimmer for Oakland University and an inductee of its Athletic Hall of Fame. He has been U of L’s head coach for 13 seasons. Upon elevating the program, he was named to the USA’s National Team coach staff in September 2015. A Brazilian by birth who holds dual citizenship with America, Albiero was elected to coach Portugal’s Olympic Team for the 2012 Olympic Games.
If you want to find out more about Kelsi Worrell, check out the articles we’ve written on her in our bi-annual magazines. For more about her background, read her article in our Spring 2015 issue. For more about her training regimen, read her article in our Spring 2016 issue. If you’d like to pick up a free copy of our magazine, you can also find them at any local Kroger, CVS Pharmacy, and ValuMarket.
The Louisville Women’s Sports Network sends its congratulations and well wishes to Worrell for the 2016 Olympic Games!