Scroggy was the lowest-seeded swimmer, at 41, in the past 21 years to qualify for the final heat at trials
Morgan Scroggy couldn’t believe the text message she received in late January from her former University of Georgia teammate and St Pete Masters member Chelsea Nauta.
USA Swimming had split the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team swimming trials into two meets, Nauta told her. The top 41 qualifiers in each event received an automatic berth in the faster of the two meets, which served as the U.S.’s qualifying meet for the Olympics. The reason for picking 41: Scroggy was the worst-seeded swimmer, at 41st, to qualify for the final heat since 2000 when she did so in the 200 backstroke in 2008.
“I was, like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool,’” says Scroggy, now a member of Columbus Sharks Masters. “I would’ve never known that one of my swims would’ve met that criteria, and then all of a sudden, they’re making a pretty big decision based off of that.
“In the next couple days, I was, like, ‘Well, if I could have helped one or two more people make that second wave and realize their dreams and not have to go through the wave one meet, I’m pretty happy.’”
Scroggy focused at the 2008 trials on the 100 and 200 freestyle, her specialties, but finished 34th in both. She did better in the 100 butterfly, in which she finished 16th, and the 100 backstroke, in which she finished 19th.
After swimming her main events, Scroggy says, she just wanted to have fun when she swam the 200 backstroke, her last event at the meet. Her approach led to a personal best of 2:13.52, good for a three-second drop and 16th place. If she had swum three-tenths of a second slower, she wouldn’t have advanced.
When she walked out before her semifinal heat, Scroggy remembers thinking about how big the crowd was but also how calm she was. She dropped another two seconds to qualify eighth for the final heat with a 2:11.36. She was a little over a half-second away from having her journey end but also in position to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
She admits she doesn’t remember everything from trials in 2008 — it happened 13 years ago, after all — but says she struggled a little bit with what she had achieved.
“I’m sure [I thought,] ‘Oh, my gosh, do I even belong here? Whose spot did I just take? Somebody probably worked really hard to get to this final, and I got their spot instead, and this may even be their main event,’” Scroggy says. “Going to finals, I was a little bit more nervous because it sort of started to sink in: ‘Well, if you have another really good swim, you might make the Olympics in this event.’ And then I’d be, like, ‘Oh, my gosh, what am I doing? I’m in over my head with this event.’”
Scroggy’s run ended when she finished eighth in the final heat with a 2:12.89, six seconds behind Margaret Hoelzer, who set a world record, and Elizabeth Beisel, the two U.S. swimmers who qualified for the Olympics, at which they finished second and fifth, respectively. Scroggy’s lifetime best from semifinals would’ve placed her 18th at the Olympics.
Scroggy’s swimming career took off after trials. She collected five top-three finishes at the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships over the next three years and qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team swimming trials. However, she couldn’t replicate her magic run, though finished as high as 13th in the 200 freestyle.
She then took a couple years off from swimming and eventually moved to Columbus, Ohio, for her work in civil engineering. Lonely in a new city, Scroggy decided to join a Masters club for community and the camaraderie through swimming that she missed.
“Being a swimmer and being in the best shape of my life and being at that pinnacle of my career was really a great time, but you forget all of the background difficulty that goes into it,” says Scroggy, 32. “When you stop swimming for a year or six months or whatever, that part fades away fast, and what sticks with you is all the good times, all the achievements, all of the camaraderie.”
- Human Interest