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Swimmers earn spot on U.S. National Team

The red, white and blue are getting a little help from the Scarlet and Gray.

Ohio State swimmers Elliot Keefer and Tim Phillips have been named to the U.S. Men’s National Team, and will compete in the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships in Irvine, Calif., on Aug. 18-22. OSU is the only university to boast two undergraduate swimmers on the U.S. team.

“Representing Ohio State here is just awesome because there aren’t a lot of Big Ten schools there, so representing Ohio State and the Big Ten on the national stage is awesome,” said Keefer, a senior from Loveland, Ohio. “And it doesn’t get any better than representing your country.”

The two Buckeyes made the U.S. Team for their performances at the 2010 ConocoPhillips U.S. National Championships in Irvine last weekend. Keefer placed third in the 200m breaststroke and Phillips placed third in the 100m butterfly.

Qualifying for the U.S. Team now gives them a chance to join an even better team, as they are close to making the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. Both will be headed to London if they improve to second place on their strokes at the 2012 Olympic Trials.

“It’s going be tough,” Keefer said. “It’s going to be a lot of training but I’m hoping to keep dropping my times. I’ll just keep working my way up, making baby steps and make my way up with the best guys there.”

The Pan Pacific Championships will be the first international competition for Keefer, who won the Big Ten Conference Championship in 2010 for the 100m breaststroke, and was a three-event All-American at the 2010 NCAA Championships.

Phillips has competed internationally on three Junior National Teams in 2008 and 2009, but he believes being on the U.S. Team will top those experiences.

“It’s a feeling that you can’t describe,” said Phillips, a sophomore from Vienna, W. Va. “I’m assuming it’s a lot better than what it’s been like on the Junior Team because now I’ll be competing for the big National Team, and I feel like it’s going to be an experience out of this world.”

Phillips was an All-American in four events as a freshman, and was the Big Ten runner-up in the 100m butterfly in 2010. Although the 2012 Olympics will coincide with his junior year at OSU, he remains undecided on his plans for that year.

“I’m going to see how this summer and next summer go and make a decision on what my junior year will be school wise,” Phillips said. “I may take a year off to train, but I’m really not sure. It’s a couple years out and I haven’t discussed that yet.”

Keefer and Phillips are still in Irvine with the U.S. Team. As they prepare for the Pan Pacific Championships, OSU swimming coach Bill Wadley is excited about their upcoming events.

“This is the opportunity of a lifetime for these young men, and it’s just a great thrill for me as a coach to be able to support and help encourage them to reach this level of excellence,” Wadley said. “They’re extremely coachable, talented young men who’ve come a long way, not just in one year, but over several years.”

Aside from being teammates, the two have been close friends ever since Phillips went to live with Keefer during the summer of his freshman year. Despite only being a sophomore, Keefer expects Phillips to help him lead the Buckeyes this season.

“Tim and I have a great friendship,” Keefer said. “He’s a very talented individual who’s going to have so much experience at a younger level. He’ll be able to lead as a younger teammate as well and help support what me and other seniors have to do this year.”

The team will need leadership from both of them after graduating 12 seniors from last season’s Big Ten Conference Championship team that finished in ninth in the NCAA Championships.

“It will be a little bit of a rebuilding year, but we definitely have enough talent to do it,” Keefer said. “My job will be to lead and drive the troops toward that goal and get a top ten finish in NCAA [Championships].”

Although they have their work cut out for them, Wadley knows Keefer and Phillips have the right attitude and dedication to not only to lead OSU next year, but also to accomplish their goals for international competition.

“They give it up in practice,” Wadley said. “I can’t tell you the last time I had to tell them to work harder. They’re just the kind of young men that are self-motivated, self-driven and love what they do.”
 

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