Phoebe Bacon with arms crossed in swim suit
Phoebe Bacon Credit: Darrow Montgomery/File

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Josette Norris has been dreaming about competing in the Olympics since middle school. But it wasn’t until two years ago, when the 25-year-old was a fifth-year graduate student running for Georgetown University, that it started to feel like a tangible goal. Now, in just her second year as a pro runner, Norris is on the verge of making it a reality at the U.S. Olympic Trials for track and field in Eugene, Oregon. In the first round of the women’s 5,000 meters on Friday, Norris won her heat with a time of 15 minutes and 32.58 seconds to qualify for the finals tonight at 8:40 p.m. ET. The top three finishers in each event will head to the Tokyo Olympics as part of Team USA.

“I’ve had the dream for a really long time,” Norris told City Paper last week, “but I definitely now have the foundation to support that dream.”

Norris is one of several athletes with local connections that has been competing this month for a chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to take place from July 23 to Aug. 8. Both the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for track and field and swimming are currently ongoing. The Olympics are the pinnacle for athletes in individual sports like track and field, swimming, and gymnastics. Casual fans tune in every four years when the Games are on TV, and it’s a career-changing opportunity for athletes. But the Tokyo Olympics, already delayed by one year due to the pandemic, have faced strong opposition from residents in Japan and the country’s medical community. According to the Associated Press, only 5 percent of people in Japan are fully vaccinated and there are fears that COVID-19 will spike once competitors and their teams travel to the country for the Olympics.

“Obviously I would be really devastated if the games were canceled, but at the same time the health/well-being of ppl in Tokyo, athletes, officials, and coaches is more important,” Claudia Saunders, a pro runner for District Track Club, wrote in a text to City Paper earlier this month. “So I hope there is a way the games can happen safely for everyone involved!”

The trials have offered a level of competition that has been missing for nearly two years. Noah Lyles, a graduate of T.C. Williams High School, has the fastest men’s 200 meters qualifying time (19.50) heading into the first round on June 25 and will be a favorite to not only qualify for the team but to medal at the Tokyo Olympics. (He competed in the men’s 100-meters as well, but finished seventh in the finals.) Lyles’ younger brother, Josephus, will also be competing in the 200-meters with a qualifying time of 20.24 seconds. 

In swimming, two young rising stars will join gold medalist and Olympic favorite Katie Ledecky on Team USA. Torri Huske, an 18-year-old from Arlington who graduated from Yorktown High School, won the finals of the women’s 100-meter butterfly with a time of 55.66 seconds, breaking her own American record. Phoebe Bacon, also 18, qualified when she finished second in the women’s 200-meter backstroke (2:06.46) on Saturday night. (The top two finishers in each event typically get spots for the Olympic team.) Like many swimmers, Bacon, who graduated from Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, can count Ledecky, 24, as an inspiration. Except, unlike others, Bacon can claim she knew Ledecky before she was an Olympic gold medalist. The two were schoolmates. And now, they’re Olympic teammates.

—Kelyn Soong (tips?

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Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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