Swimming: Making Olympic Trials hardly ‘pipe dream’ for Vernon Hills’ Rowland
Updated: July 22, 2012 7:49PM
Former Vernon Hills High School swimming standout Melanie Rowland was dripping wet — and crying — when she called her father, Jim, to give him some super news earlier this month.
Rowland, a junior-to-be at Towson State (Md.) University, had just qualified to compete in the Olympic Trials by posting a time of 2:15.76 in the 200-meter butterfly at the Speedo Sizzler meet, held at McDonough Pool in Towson. The cut in the event is 2:16.49.
“I was in a hallway, right after the race, when I called him,” said Rowland (VHHS, Class of 2010). “I was crying because I was so happy. It was something I had wanted to do since I was 13. I remember, in 2005, I looked up qualifying times for the 2008 Summer Olympics. I also remember thinking, ‘Making it to Trials, what a pipe dream.’ ”
The reality is, Rowland gets to head to Omaha, Neb., next week to compete with the nation’s best for a spot on the team that will compete at this summer’s Olympic Games in London.
The last Towson State Tiger to swim in an Olympic Trials meet was a male, Aaron Krause, in ’04. Rowland, a psychology/anthropology double major, took runner-up honors in the 200 butterfly at the Colonial Athletic Association Championships as a sophomore. She came close to qualifying for the Trials twice in the spring before her breakthrough at the Sizzler.
“I heard my coach (Pat Mead) yelling soon after I touched the wall,” recalled the 20-year-old Rowland. “That kind of gave it away, what I had done.”
Rowland touched sixth in the 200-yard freestyle and 11th in the 500 free at the IHSA state meet in ’09. Rowland also placed 11th in each of the 200 and 500 free races at State in ’06. No other Cougar in program history has medaled in more than one event at State.
She trained for years with Libertyville-based CATS under coaches Kevin Zakrzewski and Vlad Pyshnenko. She was 9 when she attended her first CATS workout.
“The CATS coaches are so knowledgeable, and they’ve been so helpful,” Rowland said. “They helped me develop the discipline I need in swimming and showed me what I needed to do to get the most out of each practice.”