BY BRANDON DUFFY
Herricks High School swimmer Sophia Karras has closed the books on an illustrious high school career by competing in the United States Olympic trials.
In the 1,500-meter women’s freestyle, Karras finished 23rd out of 30 swimmers during the preliminary round with a time of 16:53.09, making her ineligible to qualify for the finals without a finish among the top eight.
The event, Wave II of the United States Olympic trials, held June 13 to 20 at the C.H.I. Center in Omaha, Nebraska, was the last week of meets before final selection of the Olympic swim team.
Winning both rounds of the event was five-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, the niece of Jon Ledecky, co-owner of the Islanders. When asked about the level of competition she was around all week, Karras alluded to sharing more similarities than differences.
“She’s amazing at what she does and it’s really nice to just know that I’m swimming with her and maybe when she was my age, she was in the same boat,” she said.
Karras, the second-ranked swimmer in the state, said she appreciated the time spent preparing for her meet.
“I flew out June 9th and was there for about a week, five days before I actually swam. During that time I would get into the pool and just warm up, get loose, get a feel for the water and everything. Then race day the environment there is so nice. Seeing all the Olympians around you and knowing that you’re at a level like that is cool. You see the generations that have come and passed in one place.”
Since 2017, when Karras was named Nassau County champion, the Albertson native has earned all-state, all-district and all-conference honors in every year of eligibility.
Highlights of the 2020-21 season included M.V.P. of the county championships, Nassau County Scholar-Athlete, and top state positions in both the 200-meter and 500-meter freestyle. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, training and preparation were put on hold.
“During COVID, there was a time period where I was out of the water for three months. It was challenging to try to stay fit and in shape. I started running and doing anything I could to just try to keep up where I left off. Once we did get back in the pool, it took about a month to finally start the training I had been doing beforehand and hitting the goals I was at previously.”
Along with her prominence in short distance events, Karras placed first in the 1,500-meter freestyle during the Speedo Junior National Championships in 2019. Her achievements in the mile eventually earned her a spot with the U.S.A. Junior National Team for the 2020-21 season.
Karras was one of eight swimmers in Omaha who trained with the Long Island Aquatic Club, the Garden City facility that is no stranger to putting members on the steps of Olympic participation.
With the Tokyo Olympics commencing July 23, Karras will continue her academic and athletic career at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. She joins the Fighting Irish swim team as it finished the season ranked No. 21 nationally, according to the CSAA.
With Herricks High School in her rearview mirror, Karras will look on the memories and accomplishments fondly.
“I’m going to miss the team, coaches and all the teachers that helped me get to where I am today,” she said. “Also, for all of the meets in county’s, division championships, and states, the traveling and hyping each other up I’m going to miss a lot too.”