The best swimmers in the country have gathered in Omaha, Nebraska.
Keith Myburgh is among them.
Myburgh, a Virginia Tech swimmer who graduated from Hidden Valley High School, will compete in two events at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, which will be held Sunday through June 20 in Omaha.
“It’s … really, really exciting,” Myburgh said Friday in a phone interview from his Omaha hotel. “The environment’s really kind of electric when you walk in and see the official setup … [at] that pool.
“It’s something that you’ll be able to … remember for the rest of your life, so I’m super fortunate to have this experience.”
The rising senior will compete in his best event, the 400-meter individual medley, on Sunday and will swim the 200-meter breaststroke Wednesday.
“The 400 I.M., … he’s not going to be in the top eight, but he could be up there and do very well,” Tech coach Sergio Lopez Miro said. “The 200 breaststroke, … he might be top 16.”
When he was in high school, Myburgh swam at the 2016 trials.
“I’m not as nervous this time around,” he said with a laugh. “Getting up on the blocks, I literally was shaking because I was so nervous.
“But this time it’s more excitement than anything else. … I’ve learned how to handle the nerves better and kind of channel that in a positive way.”
At the 2016 trials, Myburgh was 34th out of 92 swimmers in the 400 individual medley prelims.
Returning to the trials has been a goal ever since.
“Who doesn’t want to compete at the highest level against the best people?” he said. “I’m super grateful that I can attend again.”
Myburgh qualified for these trials at the 2019 U.S. championships. The trials were postponed last year (along with the Tokyo Olympics) because of the pandemic.
Only the top two swimmers in each event will advance to the Olympics. Myburgh is just hoping to advance from Sunday morning’s prelims in the 400 I.M. to Sunday night’s eight-man final.
“In 2016, it was more of just getting used to swimming in the more high-pressure situations. But now, finishing second in the ACCs and racing against a bunch of really, really awesome competitors at NCAAs has kind of given me more experience in handling that,” he said.
Myburgh, whose parents will be at the trials to root him on, will be in the CHI Health Center stands himself to watch the finals most nights.
“That’s always so exciting,” he said. “They put on a real show.”
This meet will actually be the “Wave II” portion of the trials.
Because of the pandemic, the trials were split into a teenager-heavy “Wave I” preliminary meet that was held in early June and the “Wave II” meet, where Myburgh and such stars as Katie Ledecky and Ryan Lochte will be competing.
The qualifying standards for Wave I were not as high as the standards for Wave II. The Wave I field included Cabell Whitlow (Patrick Henry/Duke) and recent Carroll County graduate and Cleveland State signee Jackson Nester.
The top two finishers in each event at the Wave I meet advanced to the Wave II meet.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Myburgh will be one of eight Hokies competing in the Wave II meet, along with Carroll County graduate Forest Webb, Emma Atkinson, Caroline Bentz, Abby Larson, Blake Manoff, AJ Pouch and Chase Travis. None of the eight competed in the Wave I meet.
Lopez Miro said the eight Hokies will have a better chance to shine at the 2024 trials than at these trials.
Before joining the Hokies, Myburgh not only swam for Hidden Valley High School but also for the Roanoke-based Virginia Gators club team.
He will be one of four ex-Gators at the Wave II meet, along with Emma Muzzy (Cave Spring/North Carolina State), Noah Bowers (Patrick Henry/N.C. State) and Olivia Bray (Lord Botetourt/Texas).
Myburgh won state titles in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 backstroke as a Hidden Valley sophomore, junior and senior. He helped the Titans win the Group 3A state team crown when he was a junior. He broke his own meet records in the two events as a senior, when he made the All-Timesland first team for the fourth straight year.
He verbally committed to Tech as a high school junior in the spring of 2017, reaping a partial scholarship offer. Ned Skinner was the Tech coach at the time.
Skinner resigned in April 2018 and was replaced by Lopez Miro.
“[Lopez Miro] has kind of expanded the way I’ve thought about swimming in general and he’s made it more of a spiritual thing,” Myburgh said.
When Myburgh was a Tech freshman, his appendix ruptured about four weeks before the 2019 ACC championships. He recovered in time to compete at the ACC meet, finishing 10th in the 400-yard individual medley (which includes the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle).
He was hampered by tendinitis in his shoulder as a sophomore. He took ninth in the 400 I.M. at the 2020 ACC championships.
But this year, Myburgh took second in the 400 individual medley at the ACC championships with a time of 3 minutes, 43.45 seconds.
“It had a lot to do with just believing in my training and having confidence in myself,” Myburgh said.
He competed in the NCAA championships in March in both the 400 individual medley and the 200 breaststroke.
This year’s Tech team also included Myburgh’s younger brother, Collin Myburgh.
Keith Myburgh, who made the ACC all-academic team this year, plans to graduate from Tech next year with a degree in computer science. He has an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic, so he also hopes to swim for Tech in 2023 as a graduate student.
And what are his summertime plans when he gets home from the trials?
“To sit by the pool, try and get tan. Because we swim inside all year,” he said with a laugh.