Herriman native Rhyan White comes home from Olympics with a silver medalOct 04, 2021 12:18PM ● By Brian Shaw
By Brian Shaw | [email protected]
Several days after former Cottonwood swimmer Rhyan White came up just short of an Olympic medal in Tokyo, she earned one as a part of the USA’s 4x100 medley relay team.
“She is and was an exceptional athlete, and you hope to get more than one in your lifetime,” said Cottonwood athletic director Greg Southwick. “To have the opportunity to know someone that has her skill set, drive and family backing—all the tools that lead to those exceptional swims is a proud moment for all of us here at Cottonwood.”
White, who now competes for the University of Alabama swim team and is a psychology major, swam in the qualifying round of the relay in the backstroke leg for which she is known, however, the former Utah Class 5A state champion was not used in the finals.
Nevertheless, because the Colts legend White had participated on the US team in the qualifying round, that made her eligible to receive the same silver medal as the rest of her 4x100 medley relay team counterparts in Tokyo.
It was the first time that a swimmer from the state of Utah has ever won an Olympic medal in the sport. In addition to that, White is also the first Cottonwood High School graduate to have won an Olympic medal, making her medal historical in two ways.
White’s hometown of Herriman honored her with a parade. The former Colt great sat atop a giant Herriman Police Department Hummer, an American flag flying above her and her family while they motored slowly down city streets past hundreds of onlookers, soaking in this moment of a lifetime.
White’s run in Tokyo culminated a five-year-journey that started at the Cottonwood Heights Aquatic Center when a then 15-year-old White and current Cottonwood head swim coach Ron Lockwood made the decision to try and qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.
“I remember talking to her and her family before the qualifying meet in 2015,” said Lockwood before Tokyo. “We mapped out a plan for what we wanted the next couple years to look like; we set out a goal for qualifying for Olympic trials—had this crazy idea of setting a meet up in Cottonwood Heights—and she ended up qualifying there.”
White finished 18th overall at those Trials. But, as a defending SEC Conference champion swimmer at Alabama in two events in this past year, the former Colt bested her previous times by several seconds and qualified for the two Olympic events she won championships for as a member of the Crimson Tide. Those events were the 100 backstroke and 200 backstroke at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials, setting the stage for White’s debut in Tokyo.
At the 100 backstroke half a world away, White narrowly missed on a bronze medal, getting out touched by American teammate Regan Smith at the wall to finish fourth overall.
Then at the 200 backstroke in Tokyo, White’s signature event, the Colts great and medal favorite started slow, but in typical White fashion surged on the final turn. But, as the entanglement of arms reached the final wall, White’s was just .22 seconds slower than the swimmer from Australia who took the bronze.
And so for now, White will return to Alabama as a student later this month. The former Colt will also compete for the Crimson Tide and look to repeat as the SEC Swimmer Of The Year in 2022. Above and beyond that, White will look to help her team win a national title and individual golds at the NCAA Championships to best the two silvers she won in the 100 and 200 backstroke races there, last year.