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Unintended interruptions: Former Bronco Bresette tries to get back on track toward Olympic goal

Cody Thorn
Special to The Examiner
Arizona State swimmer Liam Bresette, a Lee's Summit North graduate, earned All-America honors in the 500-meter freestyle and the 800 freestyle relay in his sophomore season, which was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic. His plans to train this summer at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs also fell through because of the pandemic. He returned to the pool this week and still has a goal to make the U.S. Olympic team.

For the first time in his life, Liam Bresette is working a job as his usual busy swimming schedule has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Lee’s Summit North High School graduate is coming off a successful sophomore season at Arizona State, in which he was a College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America All-American in the 500-meter freestyle and 800-meter freestyle relay.

He won three events this year – two more than his debut season at the Pac-12 Conference school in Tempe, Ariz.

With the end of school called after the Pac-12 Championships there was no NCAA postseason. In his final races of the year, Bresette was part of a conference runner-up finish in the 800 freestyle relay with Jack Dolan, Carter Swift and Cody Bybee. The quartet finished in 6 minutes, 12.17 seconds to take second and break a school record set last year. In individual events, Bresette was sixth in the 500 freestyle and took 10th in the 200 freestyle consolation finals, just missing a spot in the finals by two-tenths of a second.

When the season ended in early March, Bresette decided to stay in Arizona and landed an internship with a local State Farm Insurance agent.

The Arizona State athletic administration works closely with local businesses to help student-athletes seeking jobs get an opportunity.

Bresette is doing an internship at Chris Bolton’s agency in Phoenix. His daily work included taking payments, sending people declarations or proof of insurance and answering any question he could – based on his few months of knowledge.

With COVD-19 canceling his summer plans of training in Colorado Springs, this is providing the business major a chance to get a glimpse of a post-college job while still in school.

“For me, I haven’t had a true job because I’ve been swimming competitively for 15 years now,” said Bresette, who was on the Pac-12 academic honor roll in the winter. “Swimming is year-round and I never really had the time to get a job, so I figured it would be a good time to do it. I enjoy it. Chris makes it more fun, and it’s a good learning experience for me.”

Pools reopened in Arizona recently and two weeks ago he was finally able to get in the pool after two months out of it. He adjusted his work schedule at the insurance agency to morning hours and that gives him a chance to swim at the Scottsdale Aquatic Club in the afternoons.

“I’m trying to get my endurance back and get back in the swing of things,” Bresette said. “The pools are open but the amount of people they let in are pretty limited. Swimming is one of those weird things, it’s a sport if you take a day off you are a week behind physically. Two months has done quite a bit of damage. I can definitely see it. It will be a while before I’m back where I was originally.”

That will help him get a chance to knock off some rust as the Pac-12 announced that voluntary in-person workouts could resume on June 15 at college facilities.

His initial plans for the summer included possibly going to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to work out with Arizona State coach Bob Bowman and other Sun Devils. Depending on the COVID-19 situation, there is a chance some of the swimmers could go training in the altitude in July.

Bresette said being back in the pool is a blessing. He tried to stay in shape with various workouts at his house, biking and running. The initial few weeks of the shutdown allowed him to focus on his goals for his final two years in Tempe.

This marks the second year in a row his summer workout plan has been altered. He got sick late in his freshman year and missed the conference meet and spent much of the summer getting healthy. He added the weight he lost back and called the training leading up to this season “better than ever.”

He hopes to bring home a gold medal in a Pac-12 event over the next few years and has the 500 freestyle record on the list of goals. He wants the Sun Devils – who were ranked No. 10 in the country this year – to reach the postseason.

“Collegiate swimming has more competition,” Bresette said. “I always won at state swimming (in Missouri), but getting out here and seeing how many guys in the U.S. that were faster than me was the difference. I train with a lot faster guys, and I say the focus and intensity of each practice is astronomically higher than it was in high school.”

He won the 200 freestyle in a match against Northwestern and 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle this year against rival Arizona. In his collegiate debut, he was second in the 200 and 500 freestyle against Florida State.

His ultimate goal, like many swimmers, is to reach the Olympics. Bresette placed in the top 20 in nationals and his goal is to reach the top eight to have a shot at the Olympic qualifying. He has longed to reach that stage since watching Michael Phelps dominate the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The top two swimmers at a qualifier go to the Olympics and the third- and fourth-place finisher joins the first two on a relay. Fifth- and sixth-place finishers are alternates.

He knows he needs a top eight to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, which were pushed back to the summer of 2021 due to the coronavirus. The next Olympics after that are slated for 2024 in Paris.

For those who saw him swim for Lee’s Summit North, it isn’t a stretch to consider him being an Olympian. He is a multiple time state champion and owns the state record in the 500 freestyle. He twice broke the 200 freestyle record, first in 2015 and then in 2017.

“I have to do significantly better than I did (this year) to consider (2021),” Bresette said. “The goals haven’t changed. That is still the goal.”