For Shae Nicolaisen, the swimmer, the drill is the same.
Take her position on the starting platforms, wait for the gun, hit the water and post the best time possible.
For Shae Nicolaisen, the 13-year-old eighth grader at Akimel Middle School, this weekend’s swim meet is a little more paparazzi-ish.
Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, Ryan Lochte and about 10 more members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team are entered in the Mesa Grand Prix, the same event Nicolaisen will be competing in at Skyline Aquatic Center in Mesa.
“It’s one of the biggest accomplishments,” Nicolaisen said. “I just have to focus on what I need to do in my first meet of the year because if I don’t I will be too nervous. It’s really exciting to be up there with that level of swimmers, but I can’t think about it that way.”
Her way has been pretty special this far.
She qualified for the Mesa Grand Prix with achieving Jr. National Time Standards and she will be one of the youngest competitors swimming at meet.
Nicolaisen will be competing all three days at the Mesa Grand Prix in the 100 meter freestyle, 400 freestyle, 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle, 200 butterfly and the 200 individual medley.
Her strongest events are the 200 (1 minute and 54 seconds) and 400 freestyles (4:28) and 200 butterfly (2:16).
Nicolaisen, who swims for Arizona Gold swim club, said she loves the feeling of finishing a race strong.
“Climbing out the pool feeling like you did your best and put it all out there is why we work so hard,” she said. “It’s a great feeling.”
Having a proud parent ain’t too shabby, either.
“She showed a passion and drive at an early age, like 7 or 8,” Tonya Nicolaisen said. “She had a focus and talent early on. We are extremely proud for being who she is, for being a great student and her swimming abilities.”
The event, held Thursday through Saturday, starts with preliminaries at 9 a.m. each morning. There will be a break and the finals will be at 5 p.m. with the doors opening at 4 p.m.
Nicolaisen will do her best to make the finals in at least one event, but knows at her age the experience is more important than anything else.
“It gives me hope for something bigger,” she said. “It’s a big deal. I’ll do my best. If I’m (in a lane) next to Missy Franklin I don’t know what I’d do, but it can only make me better.”
Nicolaisen, who competed against Franklin last year at the 2013 Western Speedo Short Course Sectional Championships in Federal Way, Wash., has the goal to one day be the Olympian creating butterflies for the up-and-comer standing on the platform next to her.
“I want a earn a college scholarship to Stanford,” she said. “The Olympics are the ultimate goal. I have thought about it. Everything I am doing now is setting me up to reach it.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com, Follow him on Twiter @JSkodaAFN.