Alumni News: Zoe Skirboll sets big goals at Olympic swimming trials

Female swimmer with trophy

Thursday, June 13, 2024, TRIB-LIVE

Zoe Skirboll feels fortunate to have the weight of the University of Virginia swim program behind her as she prepared for the U.S. Olympic team trials this weekend in Indianapolis.

The Fox Chapel graduate and Cavaliers swimmer feels she will be more prepared for the competition than when she competed three years ago.

“There will be about 50 Virginia people there from the past and present, including staff and athletes,” Skirboll said. “The first time I competed, it was just me and my dad. With the staff, other swimmers and former swimmers there, it will be nice to look over and have a big crowd of people supporting me.”

Skirboll will compete in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke this weekend. She is hoping to reach the semifinals in both events.

“I’ve talked to a lot of former Olympians and people who have competed, and they say you want to beat your seed time,” Skirboll said. “It’s hard to better your times at the trials because it is a high-pressure meet. It drains you emotionally.”

The Cavaliers will have 37 athletes competing at the event. That includes 25 swimmers from Virginia’s roster last season — from both the men’s and women’s teams — three former Cavaliers and nine incoming recruits. The Olympic team trials will take place between Saturday and June 23.

Skirboll said she feels much more prepared this time. The transition she had to make from club swimming to her first year of college was a difficult one.

“It took time for me being at UVA to settle in,” said Skirboll, who will enter her senior season in the fall. “It was about getting used to living on my own and adjusting to a different swimming culture than my club team. The transition at UVA wasn’t too bad. I had swimmers coming to my door and introducing themselves to me. I really liked the culture here.”

While Skirboll didn’t reach the Olympics during her first qualification run, she did hit a qualifying time for a junior team. She was able to travel overseas and compete with the U.S. team. She said she developed deep bonds with her teammates, especially fellow Cavaliers Emma Weber and Carly Novelline.

“It was an honor to wear gear with the USA across the chest and back and everywhere else,” Skirboll said. “It provided me with a chance to get closer to people who are at the top level of the sport.”

The Cavaliers’ culture has produced plenty of team success in recent years. Virginia won its fourth consecutive NCAA championship this past season.

Skirboll would like to help bring more shine to the Virginia program, and she has different goals than she did three years ago.

“My expectations are a little different,” Skirboll said. “Last time, I was happy to be there. This time, I want to see how far I can go.”