Tuesday, August 08, 2000

Swimming trials loaded with locals

18 from area vying for Olympic team

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        OK, so Olympic Swimming Trials time standards were softened this year. But 18 locals?

        Greater Cincinnatians will flood the deck like never before at the Trials, which begin Wednesday in Indianapolis.

        There were 11 locals at the 1996 Trials, nine in '92. This time, there are seven locals in the men's 100-meter butterfly alone.

        Not that elite swimming is a new thing here.

        “You take away the California coast, and there probably are more swimmers in close proximity here than just about any part of the country,” said Ross Wales, father of local hopeful Dod Wales. “It's been that way for 20 or 30 years.”

        The elder Wales would know: He's a vice president of FINA, the sport's governing body.

        There could have been 20 locals at the Trials, but qualifiers Talor Bendel (Beechwood High alum) and Reid Gustin (St. Xavier grad) recently retired.

        More local connections? Jeppe Nielson, a 1997 University of Cincinnati grad, will swim the Olympic 800-meter freestyle relay for Denmark. Another former Bearcat, '99 grad Honza Vi tazka, is awaiting word on whether he will swim for the Czech Republic in the Olympics.

        California native Scott Davison, swimming two events at the Trials, doesn't live here but is bound for UC in the fall. And 1996 Olympic quadruple-medalist Gary Hall Jr., who was born in Cincinnati, will compete in the Trials in the 50 and 100 freestyle.

        Only the top two finishers in each event swim that event in the Olympics, though third- through sixth-place finishers in the 100 and 200 free qualify for Olympic relay teams.

        Wales, a St. X grad, and Nate Dusing, a Covington Catholic alum, are the local headliners. Neither is a odds-on favorite to make the Olympic team, but they're also not the only hopefuls.

        “Dod and Nate have solid chances, and (Dan) Ketchum, Jayme (Cramer) and Tami Ransom have outside chances,” said Ed Bachman, coach of the Anderson Barracudas. “We could have nobody on the Olympic team from Cincinnati, or two or three or four.”

        Ketchum, a Sycamore grad bound for Michigan in the fall, and Cramer, a St. X senior-to-be, are getting considerable buzz.

        Ketchum, a freestyle specialist, placed a surprising third in the 400 free at 1999 Summer Nationals.

        At the American Short Course Championships in March, Ketchum won two events and placed second in three others, earning performer of the meet honors.

        “I think Dan's a little ahead of where we thought he'd be,” said Jeff Stewart, Ketchum's coach with the Cincinnati Marlins.

        Ketchum has geared his training toward the 200 free.

        “If I'm there in the finals (top eight), time doesn't matter anymore,” Ketchum said. “It's just, "Can you beat two people?' When it comes down to it, I'm usually a pretty good racer.”

        Cramer opened eyes a month ago in a meet in Santa Clara, Calif., winning the 200 butterfly and placing second in the 100 fly against international competition — beating Wales in the process.

        Cramer had shaved and tapered his training for the meet, giving him an advantage on Wales and most everyone else, but that didn't lessen the achievement. It was time to rachet up the goals.

        “It has changed over the course of the year,” Cramer said. “Last year I wanted to be top eight (at meets). Now I want to do that, but I know if everything works out I could do much better than that.”

        Cramer's best hope comes in the 200 fly.

Local swimmers go head-to-head for Olympic berths
- Swimming trials loaded with locals
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