WILLISTON, N.D. – Folks in Williston recognized Carissa Gormally’s talent as a swimmer when she was just a skinny girl with the Williston Sea Lions.
“We could not believe the speed and strength of that little girl,” said Vivian Kalmik, whose daughter swam with Gormally in junior high and high school.
This summer, the Williston native who went on to star at the University of North Dakota, is competing for a chance to be in the Olympics.
Gormally, 24, will swim in the U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha on June 25 through July 2 in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle and the 100-meter breaststroke.
“I’m just wanting to do the best I can,” Gormally said during a recent sendoff event in Williston, where she began swimming at age 4 for the Sea Lions.
Coach Lucas Baarlaer, an assistant coach at UND, said Gormally is going to be a strong competitor.
“In the last two months, she’s training better than she ever has,” Baarlaer said. “I know she’s going to be ready to race.”
Each event will have 70 to 80 contenders, and the top two will advance to the London Olympic Games.
“Just to make it this far is a huge accomplishment,” Baarlaer said.
Supporters from Williston who call themselves members of “Team Carissa” are rallying around Gormally and plan to keep up with her results.
Jody Bolinske, one of Gormally’s former coaches in Williston, called Gormally a “natural competitor” who “always knew how to race.”
As a Williston High School Coyote, Gormally lettered six times, earned state records and championships and was named 2005 Outstanding Athlete of the Year for North Dakota.
At UND, Gormally had four seasons of achievements that include two NCAA national championships and many Sioux records. She was named “UND Swimming and Diving Most Valuable Female Athlete” in 2010 and voted “All Decade Performer” for all Sioux athletes.
While she was at UND, coach Maviael Sampaio told Gormally she had the potential to be an Olympic athlete. That’s what led her to begin intense training with Baarlaer.
Gormally took last semester off from UND to focus on training. She plans to graduate in December with a degree in accounting.
“It’s been a learning experience for both of us,” Baarlaer said. “We put in a lot of hard work.”