Danielle Herrmann: Continued Success In and Out of the Pool
Dec. 13, 2011
For any swimmer, their senior season at conference championships is supposed to be the pinnacle of their collegiate career. For a select few, those three nights in February are merely another step on their eventual climb to the summit of the swimming world. For Kansas volunteer assistant coach Danielle Herrmann, the 2009 Big 12 Championships in Columbia, Mo., proved to be all the motivation she would need to continue her career in the pool past graduation.
“I did not have the conference (championships performance) that I really wanted,” Herrmann remembered. “It was kind of subpar and I did not want my career to end like that.”
Even before her final few swims, the Itasca, Ill., native was toying around with the notion of continuing to swim past her senior season.
“The idea was kind of in my head at the end of my senior year, but I was not really sold on it,” she said. “After Big 12’s, Clark (Campbell) told me that I had the option to continue and go to nationals one more time and finish how I wanted to finish.”
The idea proposed by her head coach was one that was starting to stick with the one-time senior captain.
“Clark knew exactly that I did not want to finish the way I did, so I started to train,” she explained.
“It was a pivotal experience for her because we were all anxious for Danielle to end her senior year the way seniors should go out, but it did not happen for her,” Campbell said. “So I used a quote which was first said by (former NFL coach) Dan Reeves. ‘You can either use disappointment to make you better or you can use it to make you bitter.'”
Not wanting to succumb to the latter, Herrmann was determined to train and to get better for competitive non-collegiate meets later on in the year.
“I had a really good meet in December and Clark said, ‘Hey, sectionals are in March, do you want to just finish it up then and go one more semester?'”, she recalled. “I figured why not, because I have three more years left of school, plus I still had some unachieved goals to attain along with that craving for competition and passion for swimming.”
Herrmann, who is a pharmacy major, worked hard that winter, which carried her through the spring and eventually into March during sectionals, where she would surpass any and all of her expectations.
“I ended up dropping three seconds off my 200 IM (time), so Clark and I talked because I was not expecting that,” she said.
Her time in the event was so fast, it provisionally qualified her for the 2012 Olympic Trials, meaning her performance would have been fast enough to send her to 2008 Trials, had she had she done it three years earlier.
“It was definitely one of my life-long goals to qualify (for the Olympic Trials), but it never seemed within reach,” Herrmann said. “So I kept training last year (2010) and had a few long course meets until the 2012 cuts were posted.”
With a time, and in turn, a goal now within in clear view, the IM/breaststroker set her sights on Omaha. First stop on the way to ‘the Big O’, was another Midwest metropolis, Oklahoma City during sectionals in March, 2011.
By the time the waves in the pool settled at the Flickinger Aquatic Center, Herrmann’s dream had been realized and she got out of the water with a time of 1:11.81 in the 100 breast, good enough for a 2012 Olympic Trials cut.
“I felt awesome and it was probably the best feeling after a race I have ever had,” she remembered. “Especially after all those years of training and sticking it out for an extra few, I was extremely excited to have realized a life-long goal.”
“Danielle getting to this level has really not been a surprise to me,” said University of Kansas head swimming coach Clark Campbell. “What has been the biggest surprise is how much she has improved in long course (meters).”
For Herrmann, swimming short course (yards) is something she mastered during her years at KU (2005-09), but her progression in long course events has taken some time. Thanks to technical praise from her coach, the transition was seamless for the 24-year old.
“In short course she is one of the most dynamic swimmers in the country because of her turns, not to mention her pullouts,” Campbell said. “That does not always translate to long course success because short course is more about the skills, while long course is about the swimmer. She has had to get used to swimming in a 50-meter pool as opposed to a 25-yard pool and has done a great job.”
Another area the standout swimmer has improved on is her coaching abilities in the water and on deck with current KU swimmers. Herrmann has been a volunteer assistant for Campbell and the Jayhawks during the past two seasons, and it seems that her water skills reflect that of her coaching abilities.
“She practices with us and is able to demonstrate some of the things in the water that Clark (Campbell) will try and explain on land,” said junior Rebecca Swank. “She is definitely a motivator for those who swim the events she swims, like the breaststrokers and the IM group.”
“She is definitely a players’ coach because 95 percent of the time she is in the water with the other swimmers,” Campbell said. “She leads by example and it is great for the rest of the team to see someone after their college career is over still competing. That’s because so many athletes think once it’s done, you are done.”
There are many words that can be used to describe Danielle Herrmann, but ‘done’ is not one of them. Just seven months removed from her long-time dream being realized, the Olympic hopeful feels she still has much more to accomplish.
“My big goal (for Olympic trials) is to make semi-finals, which is top-16,” she said. “I have gotten faster at long course as I have done it more, but I want to make sure I go in relaxed without worrying about placing or time.”
Regardless of her ultimate Trials goal, Herrmann knows she has to stay in the moment during her summer trip to Omaha and not get too caught up in the big picture.
“I know it is going to be a big and stressful meet,” she said. “But I also know that I race faster when I go in and just have fun.”
Enjoying the moment and the trip she has earned herself is something Herrmann and Campbell have talked about heading into Trials.
“The idea of her going to Trials is just simply to do her best times and let everything else fall where it may,” Campbell clarified. “I have told Danielle ‘you just need to go in there and enjoy the experience, because it is like none other.'”
If focusing on herself and blocking out all the external distractions that come with the Olympic Trials is her tallest task, then it is one that the four-year Kansas letterwinner and two-year team captain can handle. After all, that is one of the reasons she has been able to get as far as she has in the first place.
“Danielle is very focused and driven,” Swank said. “I think that is why she has been able to continue to have success as many years out of collegiate swimming as she has.”
Herrmann’s fellow coaches like Campbell and the current swimmers she oversees like Swank, are all confident that no matter what happens during the eight-day stretch next summer (June 25, July 2, 2012) in Omaha, they will not resemble those few nights in February back in 2009. That’s because Herrmann has rediscovered her passion for the sport of swimming and the sheer grit it takes to succeed in the water.
2012 Olympic Trials information: http://www.usaswimming.org/DesktopDefault.aspx?TabId=1450