CARY, N.C. (WNCN) – Mere Whelehan is 16 years old, a junior at Green Hope High School, and a reigning state champion in the water. Whelehan already has a full scholarship to the University of Tennessee, but her dreams aren’t stopping there.
“I think since I was little, I’ve always wanted to go, so we’ll see,” said Whelehan while training at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary.
She said she has a few upcoming swim meets that she’s looking forward to, but she really hopes to make it to the Olympic trials this summer.
Whelehan and others at the other aquatic center haven’t been able to hold back their excitement after recently learning the Cary location will host some of the country’s best swimmers. The Triangle Aquatic Center has been chosen to be the domestic training site for the U.S. Olympic swimming team before they head to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
“I feel like every swimmer has someone they look up to and they’re probably going to be here,” Whelehan smiled.
Ashley Twichell, a Duke graduate living in Apex, represented the U.S. Olympic team in Tokyo two years ago. She told CBS 17 News that she’s hoping to qualify again.
“To get that chance again would be really special, it’s definitely something I’ll never forget,” said Twichell.
Twichell said she now has an 18-month-old child at home, but her passion for swimming continues to keep her in the pool. She’s now preparing to head to Chile next week to compete in a 10K at the Pan American Games. Twichell’s forte is swimming long distances—swimming freestyle for two hours and 200 laps is typical for the swimmer.
“I wasn’t really planning on continuing to train and compete after I had a baby, so just taking it day by day and seeing where it goes—I’m still loving it,” said Twichell.
Twichell’s husband, Derek Wall, is the executive director at the Triangle Aquatic Center. He said the excitement has been buzzing at the facility since the news first got out that the site was chosen.
Wall said, “It was probably last year around this time we started talking to USA Swimming about their needs heading into the Paris games. They did a site visit earlier this year, they came out a second time, we went through the schedule they would need and the amenities that we have here.”
He said it wasn’t until North Carolina Swimming hosted an all-star banquet at the facility that they knew the U.S. team would be heading their way.
“It speaks very highly to the level of swimming that we have here in all of North Carolina. We have a lot of amazing teams in the Triangle area. Our TAC Titans are one of them and our facilities here are some of the best training facilities nationwide,” said Wall.
Not only does the 102,000-square-foot facility have a state-of-the-art fitness center, but they also have three pools for training, including two that are Olympic size. Wall pointed outside and said, “The outdoor pool is key, everyone wants to train in an outdoor pool.”
Wall said the aquatic center is also in the middle of a big HVAC renovation project that will improve air circulation and help de-humidify their indoor swimming area.
The U.S. Olympic swim team won’t arrive until June after trials and swimmers have been selected. They’ll then train at the aquatic center for 10 days before heading overseas.
Wall said schedules for the 1,300 swimmers who are part of their swim club are expected to change during that timeframe. Many of the youth are also looking forward to an opportunity to watch the athletes train. Wall added, “Everyone has been really supportive and it’s been such a cool opportunity that for 10 days we will do what we have to do.”