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An Early Rise for Potential Olympian

All-Met Swimmer of the Year Eric Friedland, who races with the Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club, will compete in the Olympic trials.
All-Met Swimmer of the Year Eric Friedland, who races with the Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club, will compete in the Olympic trials. (By Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The most demanding moment in Eric Friedland's swimming career, near as he can tell, repeats every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday morning. What is that tough moment?

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"Waking up early for practice," he said.

That could change Sunday, when he slips into the pool with the nation's best swimmers at the U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha. He will compete in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke against stars such as Eric Shanteau and Scott Spann.

Until now, Friedland's biggest challenge has been getting up for practice at 4:15 a.m. Once in the water, however, competition has come naturally to the All-Met Swimmer of the Year.

"He's got the size," said Scott Vekeman, Friedland's coach at the Montgomery Aquatic Center. "He's got a great feel for the water."

Though Friedland, a graduate of Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda who turns 18 Friday, probably does not have much of a chance to make the U.S. team for the Beijing Games, he is still one of the sport's up-and-comers. He has excelled at the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke -- his 54.90 in the 100 breaststroke was the second-fastest high school time in the nation this year -- while competing during the high school season with the Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club and Tilden Woods in the summer.

He recently has taken time away from competing to prepare for the upcoming trials. He has become something of a local celebrity.

"I know people that will just come up to me and congratulate me," said Friedland, who will attend the University of Texas. "I'll know them but we won't have a personal relationship. Everyone's just real nice."

Friedland is one of six RMSC members heading to Olympic trials. He will be joined on the men's side by Brady Fox, Sean Stewart, and brothers Mark and Adam Meyer. Katura Harvey, a Richard Montgomery graduate, will compete in the 400 freestyle.

Regardless of what happens at the trials, Friedland and his teammates will be linked by those early-morning practices. That's one area where all swimmers are on the same plane.

"They're tough for everybody," Vekeman said.

-- Mark Viera

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