- Associated Press - Saturday, October 18, 2014

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (AP) - Erin Voss had no idea that one race could change her swimming career. When she broke the YMCA national long course 200-meter backstroke record in July, it propelled her from one of the top high school swimmers in Massachusetts to one of the top 50 worldwide.

“Going into that race, I really had no idea that if I swam a 2:10 that I’d be given all these opportunities,” the Northampton junior said. “It was just a goal I had for myself. It’s just really awesome to set a goal for yourself and then realize you can get so much more from it.”

Voss, who was named to the USA Junior National Swim team last month, was among 16 athletes officially named earlier this month to the U.S. roster for the FINA World Cup. It will be Voss’ biggest meet to date. Competition runs Oct. 28-29 in Tokyo then moves to Singapore for Nov. 1-2.

“It’s the first major opportunity that I have had,” the 16-year-old said. “I’m excited to get to know new people that I am going to be swimming against for the next few years.”

Until she took down the 10-year-old record at the YMCA National Long Course Championships in Indiana, the junior national team, the World Cup and the 2016 Olympic trials were just fantasies. But a 2-minute, 10.58-second time on July 31, hours after breaking the record with a 2:12.43 during a preliminary round, changed all that. But swimming for the U.S. team comes at a cost.

While donning the stars and stripes, the reigning 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle state champion has decided to step away from high school swimming. Voss will not be returning to the Blue Devils this winter as they look to defend their Western Massachusetts title and improve on their third-place Division 2 state finish.

“All these travel meets that I’m doing … I really need to do my practices, and on top of school, I just don’t have time for it,” Voss said.

Swimming a 2:10 at YMCA nationals was a goal for Voss before the YMCA racing season began. She trains and races with the Greater Holyoke YMCA Vikings and coach Nick Rice.

“My short course converted to around a 2:10 or so, and 2:10 was just a number,” she said. “There are a lot of people that go between 2:13 and 2:15 and I wanted to beat that. … (When) I finished and I looked up, I had 2:10 in my head the whole season, just to know that all my hard work paid off, I felt really accomplished.”

The World Cup will be her first race of the 2015 season, which opened Sept. 1. Voss finished the 2014 season ranked eighth in the U.S. and 34th in the world based off her 200 backstroke record.

Voss hasn’t approached 2:10 since. She said she swam a 2:13 earlier in the summer. Trying it in practice is out of the question. Voss practices on short course yards, while competing on long course meters, and without going through normal race preparations, it would be nearly impossible to try, Voss said.

Instead of aiming toward the two high school postseason meets in February, Voss now has dates much early and much later circled. The 2014 National Championships open Dec. 3 in Greensboro, North Carolina.

“It’s just going to be an experience. We’ll see how it goes,” she said. “YMCA Nationals has people that qualified for Junior Nationals so it’s not like I haven’t competed at that level, but Nationals is a step up from that.”

Voss’ 2:10.58 qualified her for the 2016 Olympic Trials, held June 23 through July 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. She already has a goal.

“It would be really cool to make it to the final heat,” Voss said. “If I swim my 2:10 again, from the 2012 (Olympic Trials) results, I think I would make the top heat, but then again, it’s probably going to get faster.”

At both events, Voss could find herself on the same pool deck as 200 backstroke world-record (2:04.06) holder and Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin. At the 2014 Summer Nationals, Franklin swam a 2:08.38 in the 200 backstroke. Six other swimmers finished between Franklin’s time and Voss’ YMCA record.

“It’s going to be cool,” she said. The two seconds “is a lot of time and then again, it’s not. I don’t know where I’m going to go in the next two years but we’ll see.”

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