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Before Army service, Episcopal grad Sam Wesley signs off on swim career with Olympic Trials

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point. (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp)

Jun. 24—INDIANAPOLIS — Sam Wesley’s plans for the third week of June didn’t include U.S. Olympic Trials. At least not when he finished what he assumed was the last big swim meet of his career.

The Episcopal Academy All-Delco and senior at the United States Military Academy wrapped up his career in the spring as an all-Patriot League first teamer. He planned to take the late-season taper into one last long-course meet in Illinois, bid farewell to swimming forever, graduate from West Point and head to field artillery officer training.

Then something weird happened: In March, at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Westmont, Wesley went and got his Olympic Trials cut in the 200 individual medley, among two other best times.

So off to Indy it was.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Wesley said after his swim at Lucas Oil Stadium. “I did not expect to get here. I was supposed to go to TYR Pro and just kind of hang my hat there. I had the goal of making the Olympic Trial cut a long time ago, but never really got a lot of opportunities with COVID plebe year at West Point. It was really hard.

“But once I saw an opportunity to do it, I was injury-free, thankfully, I swam with the team and got the cut, and happy to extend my career three more months.”

Wesley’s experience was memorable. He finished 75th in Thursday’s preliminary heats, slower than the Trials cut of 2:01.87 he’d attained at Westmont, to go 2:04.46 at the home of the Indianapolis Colts. He had entered seeded 37th.

But that all was beside the point for the backstroker and IMer.

Some of the achievement was in proving what he could do one last time. He dealt with shoulder issues and a back injury his junior year, a more pressing concern for someone whose career promises to be physically demanding. He missed last year’s post-college-season swims with the latter injury.

Thursday, then, was part two of his graduation.

His family — including brother Ben Wesley, who swam at Swarthmore College, and his grandfather, a Vietnam veteran who inspired Sam’s military trajectory — went to West Point for his formal graduation.

The family from Prospect Park was in Indy to see him walk across a very different kind of stage.

Wesley focused on the perseverance aspect of his journey and the lessons he hopes to impart to his troops in the field.

“It’s just a lot of patience, just follow what you’re given from my trainers and physicians who helped me get back to normal,” he said. “Definitely I want to use this opportunity to teach my soldiers when I go in the Army, if they’re facing stuff like that: Take care of your body. Listen to your body, and just follow the rules and you’ll come out on top.”

Olympic Trials is a last hurrah for Wesley as a leader of Army’s swim team. The program sent five swimmers to Indianapolis, after just two at Trials in 2021 and one in 2016.

That includes its first-ever female Trials qualifier, Aurelie Migault, and its first multiple-event qualifier, Kal Hahn. Among the quintet is Kohen Rankin, who qualified for NCAA Championships this year, Army’s first swimmer at men’s NCAAs since 1987.

Wesley’s presence in Indy cements his place in that upward trajectory.

“It’s super awesome to be part of that,” he said. “Every single year, I always wanted the goals of Army swim and dive to grow. And that’s what I’ve been doing. The ceiling has been set higher and higher each season. And I cannot explain how excited I am for next season. They’re really set to do a lot of big things and accomplish our goals.”

Next for Wesley is six weeks of summer leave. His first posting will be Fort Sill in Oklahoma for the Field Artillery Basic Officer Leaders Course for six months. His first duty station will be for around three years at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

He steps into that career with a happy ending on more than a decade in swimming.

“You’re proud that, oh, yeah, I graduated West Point and I’m going to be in the Army. But to do this also, I cannot believe how proud I am of my counterparts,” he said. “And just how thankful I am for the support staff, my family as the biggest, but the coaches, mentors at West Point, teachers, and just everyone around me, especially the team. They pushed me to be my best self every single day. And that’s all I can ask for.”


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