Many athletes dream of Olympic glory, but few come close to ever achieving it. That's not the case for Jack Wagner, of Valley Stream*, though.
Wagner, 20, started swimming competitively at the age of four with Malverne's CYO swim team. Now, he is one of eight swimmers from Garden City's Long Island Aquatic Club who will be competing for a spot on Team USA when the Olympic Swimming Trials begin later this month.
Also representing LIAC, the top-ranked USA swim club in New York State and 14th nationwide, are Roger Dent, 23, of Muttontown, Emily Kelly, 20, of Belle Harbor, Michael Lennon, 18, of Williston Park, Daphne Skelos, 24, of Rockville Centre, Christian Yeager, 18, of Huntington, and Erik Heinemann, 19, and Oliver Lee, 20, both of Cold Spring Harbor. The trials will take place from June 25 to July 2 in Omaha, Nebraska.
Of all the LIAC swimmers who qualified for the trials, Wagner has the busiest schedule of the group. The University of Southern California student who graduated from Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville in 2010, will be competing in six events -- the 50, 100, and 200-meter freestyle, the 100 and 200 meter backstroke, and the 200-meter individual medley.
“I’ve always competed in a number of events, so I’m ready for it,” Wagner said.
Wagner will be swimming against one of his former teammates, Lee, who is also competing in the 50 and 100 meter freestyle events. The two were both members of the USA Swimming National Junior team that travelled to Europe to compete in 2009 and 2010.
Lee, who is currently studying at Harvard, said “Swimming has taught me to balance an academic, athletic and social life ... Preparing for trials this year has really helped me learn to prioritize what is important to me and direct my focus to the task at hand.”
Dent, a University of Maryland graduate and current MBA student at Long Island University, will be competing in the 100- and 200-meter butterfly. He is staging a comback after undergoing shoulder surgery three years ago.
“Preparing for trials this year has been challenging, but I’ve learned I can overcome any obstacle through hard work and perseverance,” said Dent, a LIAC swimmer since the age of 6.
Heinemann, a Bucknell University freshman, will also be competing in the 200-meter butterfly event.
“This is the fastest meet in the world. With a deeper field than the Olympics, I’m so honored to have made it to trials,” said Heinemann, a 2011 graduate of Cold Spring Harbor High School who qualified for the trials at last summer’s USA Swimming National meet.
This is the second time Emily Kelly and Daphne Skelos have qualified for the Olympic Trials. Kelly qualified for this year’s 200-, 400-, and 800-meter freestyle events while Skelos for the 200 backstroke and 400 individual medley. Both women competed at the 2008 Trials in Omaha.
“It’s really loud and exciting, there’s so much adrenaline running through you,” said Skelos, a graduate of Penn State.
Kelly, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina, agreed, saying, “The atmosphere is really unlike anything else.”
LIAC's youngest qualifiers are 18-year-olds Michael Lennon and Christian Yeager, who are still only in high school.
Lennon, who is graduating from Herricks High School and will attend the University of Connecticut in the fall, will compete in the grueling 1500-meter freestyle race. Yeager, a graduating senior from St. Anthony’s High School in Huntington who will join Lee at Harvard next fall, will compete in the 200-meter backstroke in Omaha.
“To be the only high school students from Long Island attending the trials is an honor in and of itself. The experience will help us so much in four years,” said Lennon.
Yeager added, “I’ve done the hard work to prepare, now its time to execute. To swim my best at this level of competition will be a great accomplishment.”
In Nebraska, the Olympic Trial swimmers will swim heats to determine placement in semifinals and then placement in finals. The top two swimmers in each event will represent the United States at the Summer Olympics in London, where the swimming competition will take place July 28 to Aug. 4 and Aug. 9 and 10.
You will be able to follow the Long Island swimmers’ progress at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials when the meet is broadcast live on NBC and online at www.usaswimming.org.