A lifetime of swimming could not prepare Ryan Hurley for the butterflies he felt in his stomach as he stood on the starting block before a 200-meter breaststroke preliminary at the U.S. Olympic Trials last week in Long Beach, Calif.
In front of a packed outdoor stadium crowd and alongside many of the top swimmers in the country, the recent Georgetown Prep graduate and All-Met said that for the first time in many years, he did not know what to expect when he dived into the water.
"My nerves were definitely high going into the prelims," Hurley said. "Being there for the first time, I didn't know what I had in me. But after the preliminaries I knew what I had in me and settled down. It was a great experience."
Hurley quickly proved that he was more than a spectator. He advanced to the semifinals by swimming a career-best time and placing 11th out of 31 swimmers in the preliminaries. He then achieved his overall goal by placing eighth in the semifinals -- one spot behind Ethan Basset -- who graduated from Churchill in 1998 -- and earning a spot in the championship race.
"I was so happy after the semifinals," said Hurley, who will swim for the University of Virginia this winter. "My goal was to get into the finals, and I really wasn't sure if I could. Once I did I just relaxed and had fun."
Hurley cruised to an eighth-place finish in the final -- again placing just behind Basset. However the highlight of the race, Hurley said, was being a part of Brendan Hansen's world-record performance. Hansen set the world record in the championship race.
"I could feel and hear the crowd cheering and roaring as Hansen was getting closer to the record," Hurley said. "It was an incredible experience."
No local swimmers qualified for the Olympic team but many turned in solid performances. Walter Johnson graduate Michael Raab finished third in the 200 butterfly behind Baltimore'sMichael Phelps and former Olympic champion Tom Malchow -- missing a trip to Athens by one spot. Walter Johnson Coach Jamie Grimes placed 18th in the 1,500 freestyle.
Sherwood rising senior Kassy Kugler, the All-Met swimmer of the year, was among the youngest swimmers at the event and placed 55th in the 200 freestyle.
"It was great having people I knew there, going through the same things," Hurley said. "Ethan and I have been swimming against each other for years. We're all definitely good friends because we've been competing against each other for so long."