Originally created 08/10/00

Schepens ready for trials



The past seems so inconsequential, and besides, the memories are faded.

Cissy Schepens departs today for the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Indianapolis. On Sunday, the native Augustan will participate in the 200 breast stroke trials for a spot on the Olympic team.

Schepens, a recent transfer to Georgia, vaguely remembers all the milestones that preceded hershot at the Olympics. As a junior swimmer she recalls competing in the state meet as a 9-year-old. Or was it 10?

"I got a sixth-place medal," the modest, 20-year-old college junior said. "I thought that was cool."

Not quite a prodigy, Schepens inconspicuously inched her way into the national picture.

"When I was little, I wasn't too good," Schepens said. "I didn't get good until I was a freshman in high school."

Schepens' recollections of her career at Aquinas High School are sketchy. Winning a state championship during her junior season sounded right, but she wouldn't swear to it.

What is clear is her ascent into swimming's elite. Augusta's lone swimming hope for the Sydney Games qualified in March for this weekend's trials with a time of 2:15.99.

As an SEC and NCAA qualifier during her freshman and sophomore seasons at Louisiana State, Schepens established herself on the collegiate stage. She was released from her LSU scholarship and transferred to Georgia two weeks ago. She joins the two-time defending national champions next week.

When Cissy made her first splash in a pool at age 7, Susan Schepens probably wouldn't have guessed her daughter one day would be fighting for a place on the Olympic team. Regardless of her showing at the trials, just participating is a testament to her work ethic, her mother said.

"She's hard-working, and she's determined," Susan Schepens said. "She knows what it's like to face the top swimmers. It's a unique event in her life. It will be a memory for life. It's a reward for her tenacity."

Schepens has no outlandish expectations for her return to Indianapolis, where she competed in the same pool during the NCAA championships.

She estimated her time is 15 seconds off that of the favorites.

"I don't really have a chance," Schepens said. "I just want to swim well. My goal was to qualify. Now, I want to see what it's like.

"I can use this as an experience and keep going."

This may be Schepens' only shot at Olympic glory; 2004 may be out of the question for the nonchalant athlete who plans to attend graduate school after earning her public relations degree.

She is more concerned with improving her times through intrasquad competitions with the Bulldogs than her performance in Indianapolis. Anyway, it could throw her parents into financial disarray if they had to finance a trip to Australia in September.

"We'd have to sell our house," said Susan Schepens jocularly. "We'd put it up and get a Realtor."

Reach Jimmy DeButts at (706) 823-3221.