Kierra Smith training with trials in mind

The swimmer hopes to compete for Team Canada in 2016.

Minnesota's Kierra Smith swims the 100-yard butterfly against Iowa State on Oct. 12, 2012, at the University Aquatic Center.

Ichigo Takikawa, Daily File Photo

Minnesota’s Kierra Smith swims the 100-yard butterfly against Iowa State on Oct. 12, 2012, at the University Aquatic Center.

Thomas Jaakola

Kierra Smith is taking a year off from the University of Minnesota, but she’s still swimming as hard as ever.
 
Just two weeks ago, Smith posted the third best 200 breaststroke time at an International Swimming Federation Swimming World Cup event in Japan. 
 
Smith is taking time away from collegiate swimming after her junior season to focus on training for the 2016 Canadian Olympic Trials in April.
 
Her next stop will be at the Arena Pro Swim Series at the University of Minnesota’s Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center, where she will be swimming the 100 breaststroke, 200 individual medley and her best event, the 200 breaststroke.
 
“I’m definitely farther ahead at this point of the season than I thought that I would be,” Smith said. “So I’m really excited to see what I can do at the [Arena Pro Swim Series] with a little bit of rest because we weren’t rested for the Japan World Cup.”
 
Smith has still been training with the Gophers this year, but won’t be competing in any of their races. 
 
She decided to focus all of her efforts on the Olympic trials and, hopefully, the Olympic games themselves afterwards.
 
“I feel like I’ve had a lot of extra time to just focus on swimming, and I feel really relaxed going into practices, and I still feel really connected to the team, so I’ve really had a great year so far,” Smith said.
 
Smith said she is devoting a lot of the extra time she now has to recovering and eating well. 
 
She said she can also get to practice earlier to warm up and stay longer afterwards to stretch out. She said her time off has allowed her to pay attention to little details swimmers sometimes cut out when they don’t have enough time.  
 
“Her presence on and off deck as a wonderful teammate and friend is what I have most admired and appreciated about her over the past four years,” senior Samantha
 
Harding said. “Her impact in that way has not changed with her not competing this year. She continues to be an inspiring presence on our team.”
 
Smith will get the chance to show how hard she’s worked this weekend at the Arena Pro Swim Series in her fourth appearance in the event.
 
“I don’t want to get to Olympic trials and feel like I’ve left anything out this year,” Smith said. “I’ve had a lot more confidence in what I’m doing.”
 
Smith was the 2015 Big Ten Swimmer of the Year and was last year’s 200 breaststroke NCAA champion, recording the third fastest NCAA time ever in the event. 
 
She has also been a Canadian National team member for the last two years. 
 
Head coach Kelly Kremer said Smith is the best collegiate breaststroker in the country and a great leader for the team.
 
“I think the biggest thing with her is her desire. She really wants to be the best, and she wants to be with the best, and I think her desire to get there is what makes her so good,” Kremer said. “She’s willing to do 
 
whatever it takes and commit to the highest level, and it shows in all aspects of her athletic performance.”