Sunday, April 25, 2004

Thoman hopes summer schedule includes Olympics

Good Sports: Nick Thoman/Mariemont

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Between graduating from Mariemont High School this spring and moving to the University of Arizona this summer, Nick Thoman has a little business to take care of in Long Beach, Calif.

On July 8 he'll be swimming the 100-meter backstroke at the Olympic Trials and fighting for one of two coveted spots in the event on the United States Olympic team, which competes in Athens in August. Thoman will be in fast company, racing phenoms like Olympic gold-medal winner Lenny Krayzelburg.

No pressure, right?

"I'm just hoping to hold my own and not make a fool of myself," Thoman said.

Besides Thoman, St. Xavier's Pete Carothers (100 butterfly) and Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy's Kevin Nead (400 individual medley) are among high schoolers competing at the Trials.

Benson Spurling, Cincinnati Aquatics Club coach and Thoman's year-round mentor for nine years, said the experience will lay the foundation for return trips to the Trials. While it's uncommon for many high-schoolers to snag Olympic-caliber qualifying times, the reality is that many of Thoman's competitors have had four years of college swimming to prepare. And even for a college grad, clinching one of the spots among the world's best will be tough.

"He's one of the best backstrokers in the country, coming out of high school," Spurling said. "He does tremendously well with technique and finesse, rather than brute strength. That'll come later. I think his best swimming days are going to be during his collegiate days."

Thoman said nothing has topped the day he bettered the qualifying mark of 57.79. He shattered two sectional records at the Speedo Sectional Series at Miami University March 18-20, earning his 100-meter backstroke qualifying time in 56.39 and replacing the sectional record in the 200-meter backstroke with 2:04.21.

"I had been flirting with the (100-back) time for a long time. I was pretty excited when I got it," Thoman said.

Thoman had hoped to hit the qualifying time last summer at the ConocoPhillips Summer National Championship in Maryland - until he broke his right elbow playing a game of pickup basketball just before it. His arm was in a sling as he underwent physical therapy and he couldn't swim for six weeks.

Spurling said Thoman returned from the injury "pretty hungry," and made a full recovery before his senior swimming season at Mariemont. Thoman capped the February state finals with a championship in the 100-yard backstroke and second place in the 100-yard butterfly.

His adaptation from the high school short-course to the Olympic long-course was seamless, and Thoman's Speedo Sectional time in the 200-back was just two-hundredths shy of another Olympic qualifying standard.

"He still has time to make that mark. We have a couple meets in May and June," Spurling said.

Thoman will swim the Olympic Trials preliminaries in July. Should he do well, he would advance to the semifinals and then the finals. But Thoman is hoping only for a personal best time and the opportunity to swim in the semis.

"Between now and July I'm going to train hard," Thoman said. "And I'm not going to play basketball."

Tiger's Lair Martial Arts/Union Township

Eight members of Tiger's Lair Martial Arts brought home 20 top-3 medals from the AAU Ohio State Tae Kwon Do Championships in Columbus, March 27. The competitors will represent Ohio at the AAU National Tae Kwon Do Championships July 6-10 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. They are: Keirstan Whittenbarger of Anderson Township (age 6-7) - silver in point and Olympic sparring and bronze in forms; Noah Whittenbarger of Anderson Township (age 10-11) - bronze in forms and point sparring; Elijah Whittenbarger of Anderson Township (age 5-7) - gold in forms, silver in point sparring and bronze in Olympic sparring; Cheryl Whittenbarger of Anderson Township (age 42+) - gold in forms and point sparring; Molly McCullough of Williamsburg (age 14-17) - silver in forms and point sparring; Eric Cieslewicz of Union Township (age 12-13) - gold in forms, point sparring and Olympic sparring; Justin Utter of Anderson Township (age 14-17) - bronze in point sparring and Olympic sparring; Scott Davis of Amelia (age 35-45) - silver in forms, point sparring and Olympic sparring.

Cincinnati Storm/Fairfield

The Cincinnati Storm was crowned 2004 Fairfield Waterworks Baseball Tournament Champions April 18. The third-year team playing in the 12 year-old division of the AABC Southwest Ohio League's National Division completed the tournament 5-1 and was 3-0 in the championship bracket. Team members include Matt Allen, Josh Beard, Billy Bruns, Preston Carr, Drew Esler, Kevin Hopperton, Zach Hornschemeier, Hunter Jones, Matt Pate, Tony Reed, Dylan Rios and Andrew Wallace.

Cutter Construction Hoopsters/Northern Kentucky

This AAU girls basketball team won the Under-11 state championships in Lexington in March, capping an undefeated season and outscoring their opponents 320 to 117. They won the state championships as U-10s the year before. Team members include Mallerie Adler (Conner Middle School), Katie Allen (Highlands), Allie Conner (Mildred Dean), Sarah Cuthrell (St. Mary), Hope Cutter (St. Joseph), Lindsey O'Donnell (St. Agnes), Kristen Pace (Twenhoffel) and Courtney Sandfoss (St. Therese).

Northern Kentucky Elite/Campbell County

The Northern Kentucky Elite girls 11 and under basketball team won the Kentucky Bluegrass State Games in March and the Youth Basketball of America (YBOA) State Championship in Lexington in April. The team consists of fifth- and sixth-grade girls from Boone, Kenton, and Campbell counties. They will represent Kentucky in the Girls Basketball Association (GBA) National Tournament in June. Team members include Kiley Bartels, Devin Beasley, Taylor Griffin, Brionna Jones, Katlyn Sams, Lauren Tibbs, Bekah Towles and Hannah Uthe.

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