Logan Madson is 25. Tommy Brewer is 15.
Madson is several years out of college. Brewer just wrapped up his freshman year at Summit High School in Bend.
On the surface, the two might not seem to have much in common, but something they do share is that they both swim.
Fast, like sailfish.
So fast, in fact, that Madson and Brewer are slated to represent Central Oregon at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in swimming, scheduled to begin Monday in Omaha, Neb. They are two of more than 1,500 swimmers who qualified for the event. Madson will compete in the 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly events, while Brewer will contest the 200-meter breaststroke.
“People say it is the fastest meet in the world because ... (the U.S.) has the fastest athletes, and they only take two people,” Madson says of the Olympic trials, where only the two fastest swimmers in each event make the U.S. Olympic team. “More world records are broken at the Olympic trials than sometimes ... at the Olympics.”
Madson started swimming for the Bend Swim Club when he was 5. In 2004 and 2005, he played a significant role in the Storm's team championships in Class 4A, then the state's largest classification. After high school, he went on to a successful collegiate career at national swimming powerhouse Auburn University in Alabama. The Tigers of the Southeastern Conference won three NCAA titles while Madson was on the team, and as a senior in 2009 he placed third individually in the national meet in the 100-yard and 200-yard butterfly events.
“Up here, I was kind of a big fish in a small pond. Going down there, I started out as a nobody,” Madson observes of competing in SEC country. “So I definitely had to get my name out there and work hard.”
Upon a cursory glance, Madson might seem like a long shot just to make it out of the heats in Omaha. His marks on the most recent list of trials qualifiers rank him No. 60 of 138 swimmers in the 100 butterfly and No. 66 of 154 in the 200 butterfly. But some swimmers ranked ahead of him may opt out of those events, and the times are densely packed. For example, in the 100 butterfly, if Madson's cut (qualifying time for the trials) was a second faster, he would be ranked 24th.
Besides, as far as the trials go, Madson has been there before. He swam in the 2008 trials at the same site, then known as Qwest Center Omaha, which will seat more than 13,000 spectators and whose pool is built on the arena floor specifically for the event. In 2008, in a field of more than 100 swimmers, Madson advanced out of the heats to the semifinals of the 100 butterfly, in which he placed 16th and swam against Michael Phelps.
Yes, the same Michael Phelps who went on Olympic lore by winning eight gold medals in Beijing.
“It was on TV, so everyone got to watch it because anything that Michael Phelps is in, they're going to televise,” Madson recalls of his semifinal heat at the 2008 trials. “All of my friends got to watch me swim.”
While Madson is an established veteran on the U.S. swimming scene, Brewer's star is just starting to rise. He made an instant splash in his first Class 5A high school state meet in March, winning the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle races in meet-record time.
But the trials are a different pool altogether. At a lanky 6 feet, 6 inches, Brewer will be one of the tallest male competitors, but he will also be one of the youngest.
“It's going to be the biggest meet I've ever gone to,” says Brewer, adding that his biggest meet prior to the trials was junior nationals, a competition for swimmers age 18 and younger.
While Brewer is young, he is realistic about what he will be trying to do in Omaha, which is “hopefully the beginning of a national-caliber career.”
“I know I'm not really going to accomplish anything there,” concedes Brewer, whose time ranks 93rd of 136 qualifiers. “I'm just kind of going for the experience, so it will definitely be valuable experience ... get me prepared for nationals and stuff that I'm going to be going to up until next trials (in 2016).”
Brewer swims for the Cascade Swim Academy Current, a small, newer Central Oregon club coached by his mother, Ann Brewer. Last summer, he says, the trials started showing up on his radar when he realized he was not far from making the cut. So he picked up his training and, in March, at a 2012 Western Zone Speedo Champion Series senior sectionals meet in Federal Way, Wash., he knocked two seconds off his personal-best time in the preliminaries. Then, in the final, he sliced off an additional three seconds to make the Olympic trials cut and set the meet record.
“He had the right competitors next to him, it was the right atmosphere, and you're lucky to get that in a season,” Ann Brewer says of her son achieving his trials cut. “But I have to give him all the credit. He put his head down and did the work.”
Tommy Brewer, whose event gets going in Omaha on June 28, plans to use his trials experience to observe the top swimmers at the meet, to see how they compete in and manage a meet that will not conclude until July 2 and includes dozens of events and hundreds of heats.
“I'd actually be really happy with matching my best time, “Brewer says. “But realistically ... I'd want to at least re-get the trial cut to just kind of solidify the fact that I can do this and I can be here — (that) I'm not the 15-year-old that had some miracle swim.”
Madson's journey to the 2012 trials has been a bit more circuitous than it was in 2008 — and even more so than Brewer's this year. After completing his collegiate eligibility at Auburn in 2009, he took a couple years off from the sport, during which time he moved back to Bend. By then weighing in at about 205 pounds, he decided to get back in the pool.
“I came and talked to Mark (Bernett, the longtime Bend Swim Club head coach), and he was like, 'Sure, let's give it a shot,'” recalls Madson, who will begin his trials on June 27 with the heats and semifinals (if he advances) of the 200 butterfly.
In January 2011, Madson resumed training.
“Definitely, those first couple weeks were exhausting, to say the least,” Madson says of his return to intense training. “But it started to slowly come back and within a few months, the weight started to come off and the fitness came back.”
In late June of 2011, Madson got his first trials cut. The second one came about five months later.
“Really, the first five or six months was kind of an adventure,” Bernett notes. “And the fact that he made the trials cut in ... June of last year, that was obviously a huge step just making the qualifying time again. He's going to have to swim best times at the (trials) to have a shot at getting second swims.”
These days, Madson is much trimmer at about 170 pounds. He is working out six days per week in the pool and twice per week with dryland training.
And in just a few days, he and Brewer will take to the pool on the floor of the CenturyLink Center. A place of Olympic dreams.
“I definitely am not as nervous just going into it already as I was in 2008. I'm more confident,” Madson says. “I think this time around I have a better shot than I did in 2008.”