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Newsday (New York)
Long Island swimmers will be sharing a pool this weekend with United States Olympian Ryan Lochte, and even some of them can't believe it.
"It's kind of crazy," said Jason Louser, who enters his junior year at Shoreham-Wading River High School this fall. "I've always wanted to go to a meet to just watch him swim, not being involved in the meet, but this time I am in the swim meet swimming with Ryan Lochte. It's mind blowing."
The Nassau Aquatic Center, located at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, will host the 2017 U.S. Open Swimming Championships, starting Wednesday and lasting until Sunday. The event features some of the top swimmers in the country, including multiple Long Island swimmers, and even Olympians such as Lochte.
Louser, a Newsday All-Long Island selection who set the Suffolk County record in the 500-yard freestyle and won the 100-yard breaststroke state championship this winter, said he's been waking up at 4:30 a.m. the past two weeks to train double sessions with his Long Island Aquatic Club team. He trained at 6 a.m., drove an hour home, before leaving his house again around 3:15 p.m. for a 4:30 p.m. practice.
"It's been a lot of driving and dedication needed but I know I'm doing it for a good reason," Louser said. "A meet like this is the reason I work as hard as I do."
Louser will swim in the 200-meter LC (long course) breaststroke - which he enters with the 16th seed time in the event - 100-meter LC breastroke, 400-meter LC intermediate medley and 200-meter LC intermediate medley. Lochte will also be swimming in the 200-meter LC intermediate medley, entering with the top time in the event.
But Louser won't be the lone Long Island athlete competing against the best in the country. Christopher O'Shea, who graduated from Rocky Point High School last spring, has been balancing work to save money for when he swims at Eastern Michigan next fall with training for the championships.
"I started swimming when I was 9 and you never really think about being somewhere that there's going to be Olympians at," O'Shea said. "And to think you're going to be swimming at the level of all these people you look up to and to be able to swim in a pool with them, it's insane."
O'Shea, a Newsday All-Long Island selection who won the 100-yard butterfly state championship and placed second in the 100-yard backstroke this winter, is trying not to let the magnitude of the race get to him, saying he approaches every race the same.
"It's hard to stay humble about it, but it's still satisfying that people see your achievements and are proud of you," O'Shea said. "So that's where the confidence boost comes from."
When O'Shea's friends found out he was swimming with Olympians on Long Island, they wanted to come out to see him race.
"Most people don't understand swimming but then when you say you're going to be swimming against somebody like Ryan Lochte, everybody is like 'Oh, wow, that's actually really good," he said.
O'Shea will be swimming in the 100-meter LC backstroke and 100-meter LC butterfly. He'll also be swimming in an event Lachte is competing in, as the Olympian enters the 100-meter LC backstroke with the eighth best time.
There will be plenty of Long Island talent at this weekend's championships, including Timothy Marski, C.J. Arena, Ryan Brown, John Hurley and Christian Sztolcman on the men's side and Kristen Romano, Margaret Aroesty, Chloe Stepanek, Lauryn Johnson, Molly Treble and Cara Treble on the women's side.
Aroesty enters the women's 200-meter LC intermediate medley with the top seed time (2:13.23).
"A lot of good swimmers come from California, Texas," Louser said, "and coming from Long Island and seeing all the Long Island swimmers compete at a meet like this just shows there's not only swimming in other areas, but it's also in New York."
And O'Shea, who said he never could have imagined himself in this race, is enlivened by the atmosphere and sharing the pool with Olympians and many other well-accomplished swimmers.
"Just to have them possibly watch me and be in the same area as me is just so exciting," he said. "It's like going on a roller coaster. You just get the nervous butterflies but it's still so exciting at the same time."
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