Since her third-place finish in the 200-meter backstroke at last year’s Phillips 66 National Championships in Irvine, Calif., former Richland High School swimmer Lisa Bratton hasn’t stopped moving.
First, she went to Australia with Team USA for the Pan Pacific Championships. Then, it was off to Texas A&M for her freshman year of college.
Last month, she was in South Korea for the World University Games and came home with a gold medal and a personal-best time in the 200 back. She also brought back an appreciation for Korean food, including a menu item known as dinosaur stone soup.
“It was basically pork still on the bone,” Bratton said. “You turn it upside down, so it looks like a skeleton in the soup. It had broth and noodles. It was a whole experience of a meal.”
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Now, she’s back where it all began, at this week’s national championships. This time, the meet is in San Antonio, a three-hour drive from Texas A&M’s flagship campus in College Station.
Adding to the homey feel of the meet, Bratton will be joined by 12 other women on the Texas A&M swim team, plus several familiar faces from the national squad.
“I’ve never had a group of girls to hang with at nationals,” she said.
After her breakthrough in 2014, Bratton is a favorite this year in the 200 back.
Defending champion Missy Franklin, 2014 runner-up Kathleen Baker, 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Elizabeth Beisel and Maya DiRado, who has the fastest American time in the event this year, are competing at the FINA world championships in Kazan, Russia.
Bratton’s seed time of 2 minutes, 9.31 seconds, achieved at the World University Games, is 12th best in the world this year and second among Americans. At nationals, she’s the top-seeded U.S. swimmer and No. 2 overall. Australian Belinda Hocking, the 2014 Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacs champion, comes in with a seed time of 2:07.24.
Bratton will represent her club team, the Tri-City Channel Cats, and Texas A&M at nationals. She will begin her program today in the 200 individual medley, followed by the 100 back (Friday), 400 IM (Saturday) and 200 back (Sunday).
She’s in good position to remain on the national team for the 2015-16 season. The six Americans with the highest world rankings in each Olympic event from USA Swimming or FINA-sanctioned meets will make the team, which is set to be announced Sept. 1.
It’s a far different feeling than a year ago, when Bratton was fresh out of high school, knew few of the other swimmers and just wanted to drop time.
“I feel more confident in myself knowing I qualified for the national team,” Bratton said. “Clearly I can compete with them. It’s a lot more fun.”