May 23—CUMBERLAND — Local swimmer Daniel Diehl, an Allegany High School freshman, qualified for the Olympic Trials next month in two events.
Diehl, a member of the Sea Otters swim team coached by Brian Dowling, will compete in the 100-meter backstroke on June 14 and 50-meter freestyle on June 19. His backstroke time is fast enough that he will be swimming against the country's best, namely 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte.
There was a car wash on Saturday at the Cumberland YMCA with the proceeds going toward his travel expenses for the trials in Omaha, Nebraska.
"I'm pretty excited, I've been thinking about this meet for the past two years, it's been the overarching goal," Diehl said. "I'm grateful to be going and excited about the opportunity. I want to thank my coach and my parents, if it wasn't for them I wouldn't be here.
"I definitely want to talk to (the other swimmers) and see if I can learn something about their mentality."
His goal is to make the semifinal round, which requires a top 16 qualifying heat time, and become a member of the Junior National Team. The top two finishers who are under 18 in each event make the junior squad.
Diehl is currently the second fastest backstroker in the country under 18 years of age.
"I'm pretty confident," he said. "If I get to the semifinals it'll be on NBC, so that's pretty cool. And I want to get to go to the World Junior Championships in Russia."
The 15-year-old qualified for the trials in the 100 backstroke back in November, but he improved his time to 54.90 with a first-place finish at the 18-and-under Spring Cup in Richmond earlier this month — a mark that broke Michael Phelps' 15-16 age group Maryland state record for long course.
Diehl also won the 50 free at Richmond in 22.99, another personal best, to finish under the 23.19 cutoff to make the trials. His backstroke was well under the 56.59 threshold.
The area swimmer holds three long course and four short-course state records for his current 15-16 age range. In addition to his 100 backstroke time in long course, his short course marks in the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle and 200-yard freestyle broke records previously held by Phelps.
Short course competitions are held in 25-yard pools, while long course is held in 50-meter pools. The Olympic Games and international competitions take place on long courses. College events, like the NCAA championships, and high school competitions take place in short course pools.
Alex Rychwalski is a sportswriter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.