Lisa Bratton and her Tri-City Channel Cats coach, Todd Stafek, sat and watched the last of the finals of the Phillips 66 Nationals in Irvine, Calif., on Sunday night.
The Richland High School graduate had held out hope that somehow she might earn a berth on the United States’ swim team roster that would be headed to the Pan Pacific Championships, set for Aug. 21-25 in Gold Coast, Australia.
“We thought I wasn’t going to make it at that point,” said Bratton, who instead started thinking about the Junior Pan Pacific Championships, especially after placing 52nd overall in the women’s 200 individual medley.
Those Junior Pan Pacs are set for Aug. 27-31 in Maui — not a bad destination either.
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But it wasn’t but 10 seconds after those thoughts had run through Bratton’s head that the public address anouncer got onto the microphone.
“The finals are over, and then there’s an anouncement for Lisa Bratton to report to the high performance area,” said Stafek. “I thought well, maybe it was about something else.”
Nope. The national team director wanted Bratton to join the big team in Australia, to swim in the women’s 200 backstroke.
“The director said ‘You’ve got 5 minutes to get down to the other end of the pool to get into the parade for the team we’re going to announce,” said Stafek. “It’s just seemed like a massive whirlwind tonight.”
It gets to be even more of a whirlwind today.
Bratton practices with the U.S. team this morning, then boards a flight out of Los Angeles tonight for Brisbane.
The team, which also includes Olympic gold medalists Missy Franklin, Michael Phelps and Bremerton's Nathan Adrian, travels to Australia this week for a training camp in Brisbane. The competition is Aug. 21-25.
The full roster is on USA Swimming's website.
Neither Bratton nor Stafek had planned for the major event.
“It really wasn’t even on our radar,” said Stafek. “She didn’t even bring her passport down here. We had to have it FedExed down here.”
Bratton said her plan was to qualify for the Junior Pan Pacs, an event for younger athletes.
“That was the goal,” she said. “The goal was to take a 2:10, 2:09 time in the (women’s 200 backstroke on Thursday). I got 2:11 in the prelims. I was bummed and someone said ‘Yeah, you’re fourth.’”
Bratton thought they meant fourth in the B finals, where the second fastest 16 compete. But they were talking about the A finals — the fastest 16.
“In that event, I thought ‘We’re going to swim and see what happens,’” Bratton said. “There were two people to my left and I was just going to concentrate on beating them.”
Her finishing time in the finals of 2:11.57 disappointed her.
“Then I saw a 3 next to my name and I thought ‘No way,’” she said.
That surprised Stafek too.
“As far as placing, yes I was surprised,” he said. “As far as time? No. She was virtually the same time last year at junior nationals. I told the (national) coaches this is almost the same time she had last year at junior nationals.”
Stafek says this is the first Tri-City Channel Cat to make the U.S. team.
“It hasn’t come out, but she’s pretty much a lock to make the national team for the next year, starting in September,” said Stafek.
For Bratton, it changes some of her plans.
She and her mother had planned on driving a truckload of her belongings to Texas in a few weeks, when she planned to begin swimming as a freshman at Texas A&M.
Now, though, mom drives by herself.
She swims in Australia, flys to Los Angeles, jumps on a plane to Texas, and starts school.
It’s all happened so fast this weekend.
“I think I’m still shaking,” Bratton admitted. “This is my first time out of the country and I’m doing it alone.”
She’ll have her country behind her.