Josh Wakeley of Galloway Township plans to end his swimming career this week at the sport's greatest American stage, the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb.
Wakeley, who swam four years for Penn State, will compete in a preliminary heat in the 200-meter butterfly today in the CenturyLink Center's 50-meter pool. He qualified last summer for the trials with a time of 2 minutes, 3.93 seconds at the USA Swimming Middle Atlantic Championships at Bucknell University.
The 22-year-old Wakeley knows the odds, with more than 140 other qualifiers in the 200 butterfly set to race. His competition includes Michael Phelps, the Olympic gold medalist in the event in 2004 and 2008, plus U.S. stars Ryan Lochte and Tyler Clary.
"This is the last meet of my career, and to go out at the highest level I can is something special to me," Wakeley said. "This is a great way to finish it up, and my dad is excited to get out there and see me swim."
Dave Wakeley, Josh's father and the Atlantic City Aquatic Club's head coach, made the trip to Omaha with Josh on Sunday.
"Josh is the oldest we have (at the club), though there a couple of other college kids," Dave said. "He's the only one who made the trials. He's been training for this a long time and he's set to go. You get there a day early for each time zone (difference)."
Josh is looking for a below two-minute time, which would put a great finish to a career that began with the club in the Atlantic City High School pool more than 10 years ago.
Josh was mostly under the radar in high school because he went to Atlantic Christian School in Egg Harbor Township, which doesn't have swimming. But he was a standout club swimmer.
At Penn State he swam the 200 butterfly, the 400 individual medley and distance freestyle events. He was a scholarship athlete in his final year, and graduated in December with a degree in biological engineering.
Wakeley has trained this winter and spring at A.C. Aquatic Club with coach Bill Sepich. Wakeley has been training once a day, six days a week. A session includes 45 minutes or more of dry-land training and two hours in the pool.
"The 200 fly has more pacework than the 100 fly (the distance for the butterfly in high school)," Wakeley said. "You can't go all out at first. You have to have enough to come on in the last 100. You don't swim the 200 fly till you get to about the 11-12 age group.
"Training has been pretty hard. There's been more sprint, speed work. A lot of 50s off the block, and 50s and 100s for endurance along with the normal training."
Sepich has been a swimming coach for 35 years, and he considers Wakeley one of his favorite pupils.
"Josh is a well-disciplined young man and he's definitely in the top three of the hardest working and nicest young men I've worked with," Sepich said. "He buys into what I say, and it's nice to have a college kid to speak to, because they have input. They're smarter and stronger and they know what to eat and what to do. The times he's been putting up are faster than he's done in his life."
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