Tyler McGill headed to London
OMAHA, Neb. — The conversation took place more than a decade ago, but Jeff McGill still remembers it almost word for word.
Will Barker was coaching 12-year-old Tyler McGill at the time when he pulled Jeff aside.
"He told me Tyler was one in a million," Jeff said late Sunday night in the lobby of CenturyLink Center, site of the U.S. Olympic trials. "I said, 'What do you mean?'
"He said these kind of kids don't come around too often. And you know what, he was right. It took 12 years, but he was right."
Now 24, Tyler McGill is headed to his first Olympics. The Champaign Central product punched his ticket to London with a scintillating second-place finish in the 100-meter butterfly Sunday. Under the brightest of lights, McGill turned in the world's second-fastest time this year (51.32 seconds) to edge third-place finisher Ryan Lochte by 33-hundreths for the final spot.
"I came here for a purpose," Tyler said. "The goal was to go to London."
Michael Phelps won the race in 51.14 — the fastest time in the world this year.
"It's overwhelming when you see your child's dreams come true," said his mom, Susan McGill.
About 30 family and friends — many of them wearing "I Heart Tyler McGill" T-shirts — were on hand Sunday to celebrate Tyler's feat. Nervous Nellies leading up to the event, the group erupted when Tyler placed second.
"An amazing feeling," Jeff said. "When it happened, all the nervousness finally left me. I finally felt a sense of calm."
If Tyler McGill was antsy, he never let it show.
After Saturday's semifinals, McGill said he'd relax by watching a movie.
"I'm usually good at shutting my mind off but the stage is much larger now," he said. "It is all about being able to wind down and shut your brain off."
Having familiar faces at every corner in Omaha helped, too.
"It's an exciting time," he said. "More than anything I just want to continue to enjoy the process, carry myself with a smile and then let my body do what it does."
A quick start in Sunday's race allowed McGill to take the lead on Phelps, who was in sixth place at the turn. A solid finish helped McGill fend off Lochte.
"As the race got closer and closer and closer everyone was jumping and standing up," Susan McGill said. "Then he touched and I saw No. 2 next to Tyler's name and knew he made it. Then I started hugging everyone."
McGill is the second C-U star to qualify for the Summer Games in a week, joining Centennial grad Gia Lewis-Smallwood (discus).
On Sunday night, McGill joined family for dinner in downtown Omaha. Tonight, he'll be feted at the closing ceremonies. On Tuesday, he'll return to his home in Alabama to start preparations for London.
"I don't think there is any doubt in his mind that he is going to make it to the medal stand," Jeff McGill said.