Swimming: Area swimmers aim for Omaha
Brian Donatelli encourages kids on the swim team during practice at the La Grange Field Club. Donatelli coaches at the LFC and will be competing in the Olympic swimming trials in Omaha. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 22, 2012 7:57PM
The Hinsdale Community pool has become a popular place in the last month.
Two former high school standouts have been holding regular workouts at the pool in preparation for the U.S. Olympic trials, which will be held June 25-July 2 at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.
Lyons Township graduate and Iowa sophomore Brian Donatelli and recent Hinsdale Central grad Danny Thomson have been spending plenty of time at the pool, which is home to one of the only 50-meter pools in the West suburbs. Donatelli and Thomson have done part of their training at their own high school pools, but those pools are measured at 25 yards. Thomson has been waking up every morning at 5:30 to begin his Olympic trials workouts.
The upcoming U.S. Olympic trials will be held on the same long-course pool, more like a tank, that was used for the trials in 2008 in Omaha at a 16,680-seat arena normally reserved for college hockey and concerts.
“It’s really exciting. The Olympic trials are fun, that’s what I heard from people that were there in 2008,” Thomson said. “It’s like no other meet. There are fireworks and lights and part of it is entertainment. The race is unbelievable.”
The Stanford-bound Thomson will compete in the 400-meter freestyle and 1500 free in Omaha just four months after winning the 200-yard free and 500 free for his fourth and fifth career titles at the state meet.
Thomson is one of three Hinsdale residents competing in the Olympic trials, along with Notre Dame All-American Kelly Ryan of Fenwick and former Red Devils swimmer Sydney Schaefer of the University of Missouri. Ryan will compete in the 100 free, 100 back and 200 back while Schaefer qualified in the 50 free.
Donatelli will make his Olympic trials debut in the 50 free. His preliminaries heat will be held June 30.
Donatelli considered remaining in Iowa City to train for the trials, which is where many of his nearly one dozen Iowa teammates are training for the trials. Because he is working at the La Grange Field Club this summer, Donatelli decided to come home to train.
“I’m very excited; very, very excited,” Donatelli said. “It’s very special coming home. I hope to represent the country very well. It’s awesome thinking about it.”
Donatelli grew up as a self-described “pool rat” and swam at the YMCA and both LT campus pools as a kid.
One other area swimmer headed to Omaha is Fenwick junior Mimi Schneider, a Western Springs resident. Schneider won four state medals last season, including a 100 fly championship, and qualified for the Olympic trials’ 50 free, 100 free, 100 fly and 100 back in a junior national meet last summer in Palo Alto, Calif.
“I’m excited. My family is going with me. It will be a blast,” Schneider said. “It will be the biggest meet I’ve ever swum in. The fans will be packed. There will be so many people there. Maybe I can make a semifinal.”
Schneider will be joined by another member of her Romeoville-based Bullets Academy swim team. LT graduate and Southern California junior Sean Mulroy of La Grange also qualified.
Ryan, who graduated from Fenwick in 2010, has remained in South Bend, Ind. to train at the pool’s 50-meter pool. She finished seventh in the NCAA Championships’ 200 back in March in Auburn, Ala.
“I’m trying to get my best times in my events,” Ryan said. “The event that has improved the most for me is the 200 back. It will interesting to see how it translates to a long course.”
Thomson, like many competitors, tries to become realistic about his chances at the trials. He hopes to gain experience to make a more serious run for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“Anything can happen,” Thomson said.