Grand Island coach Doug Whitman once noted that swimmer Scott Usher was "one to watch." As it turned out, the entire country had the chance to watch Usher.
Usher ended up finishing seventh in the 200 breaststroke in the 2004 Olympics and in 2008 fell just short of returning for a second Olympics.
Usher’s talent certainly was easy to see early on. He began to come into his own during his sophomore year in high school, when the Islanders’ breaststroke specialist graduated. In the next three years, he sharpened his technique at the Junior Nationals in San Antonio, as well as several other big meets.
His dominance was on full display once making it to Wyoming, where he was a four-time first-team All-American and earned five All-America honors. Usher was also a six-time Mountain West Conference champion — four titles in the 200-meter breaststroke and two in the 100 breaststroke — and still held the conference record in the 200 when the conference discontinued the sport following the 2011 season.
Usher — who won 35 of 36 dual meet breaststroke races during his college career — still holds school records in the 100 and 200 breaststroke for the Cowboys, now competing in the Western Athletic Conference.
His last run at the Olympics ended in Omaha, with Usher finishing third in the 200 breaststroke at the 2008 Olympic Trials. He finished less than one second off second place and a chance to swim for Team USA.
"That was probably my favorite meet I ever swam in," Usher said.
Usher then trained as an alternate to the Olympic team after swimmer Eric Shanteau was diagnosed with cancer, though Shanteau did go on to compete in Beijing.
Out of the pool, Usher graduated from Wyoming with a degree in criminal justice in 2006, then coached at the club and university levels while earning his masters in sports administration. He joined the University of Miami (Ohio) athletics department in 2010, where he now works as an assistant director of development.
Usher lives in Cincinnati with his wife, Shannon, and is expecting his first child in late 2015. And while life is busy and getting busier, he said he still finds time to get back to his home state two or three times a year, visiting for holidays and attending Husker football games.
"It’s fun going back to Grand Island and to see how things change, or don’t change, and to see family," Usher said.
One thing that hasn’t changed is Usher’s status as one of the state’s greatest athletes of all time.
Competed for: Grand Island High, Wyoming Cowboys and Team USA
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Sean Kelly from Creighton Prep was a fierce challenge at the state meet in the breaststroke for three years.
Best moment as an athlete: When Usher qualified for the Summer Olympics in Long Beach in July 2004
Usher was No. 83 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »