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Bigger stage awaits Westlake

Del Oro grad preps for Olympic Trials before he begins college career at Alabama
By: Justin A. Lawson Journal Sports Writer
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A high schooler, nearly a minute off the fastest qualifying time, might be satisfied with just going to the Olympic Trials. But if you glance at Brian Westlake?s workout schedule, you?ll know that he?s not there just for the experience. The recent Del Oro High graduate is in the midst of a workout that includes daily two-hour swim practice sessions in the morning, Crossfit-style workouts three days a week and an afternoon one-hour swim session another three days a week. ?It?s the biggest meet of the whole year for a lot of people, second only to the actual Olympics,? Westlake said. ?It was just a huge relief to finally get it because I was about 10 seconds off before I did that race and it was just a big relief to finally get it, not have to worry about it this year.? Westlake will compete in the 1,500-meter free on July 2 as part of the eight-day Olympic Trials, which begin June 25 in Omaha, Neb. The trials are just one part of a whirlwind adventure Westlake has been on since he captured the Sac-Joaquin Section 500-meter free title May 10. He graduated from Del Oro on Saturday and the final destination of his journey is the University of Alabama where Westlake will spend the next four years under the tutelage of the former national team director of USA Swimming. His road to the trials began last August at the National Championships where he swam the 1,500 in 15 minutes, 52.92 seconds. The time was a major improvement, but was still distant to the top mark of 14:52.36 set by Chad La Tourette. La Tourette, though, is five years Westlake?s senior and had a stellar career at Stanford. Westlake?s time likely won?t be this year but he?s already built up an impressive resume as he prepares for the next level. He achieved seven automatic All-American marks and won the Sac-Joaquin Section 200 individual medley as a junior, an event he didn?t compete in as a senior. ?Even though I won it last year, I just wanted to see what I could do in the other events,? Westlake said. ?I never really raced the 200 (free) as much so I wanted to see what I could do, get a school record and go All-American.? He finished second in the 200 meter free to a freshman out of Davis. When he steps onto the campus at Alabama this fall he will join an elite group of Crimson Tide swimmers. The school has churned out 56 Olympians, six of which who have gone on to win gold medals. Additionally, Westlake?s chances of joining Team USA will be furthered with the help of Hall of Famer Dennis Pursley, who was named head coach in May. Pursley is the former national team director for USA Swimming and is the current head coach of British Swimming. College swimming programs usually place a bigger emphasis on weight lifting so with the increased strength he hopes to achieve, Westlake?s immediate goals are lofty. ?I want to make it to the NCAA championships freshman year, which basically the top 20 from the whole college level makes it each event so it?s quite an accomplishment just to get there,? Westlake said. Westlake?s time in the 500 would place him in the top two in the Alabama record books but last year?s NCAA automatic qualifying time was 4:15.68, about 12 seconds faster than the 4:27.83 that earned him the section title. Westlake will have plenty of time get to that level and will see some prime examples in the water at trials. But while some young swimmer might take the moment to snap a Facebook-worthy photo with Michael Phelps, Westlake will be all business. ?Whenever I go to the bigger meets some of the younger kids on our team try to get pictures with them but I kind of have like a little rule with myself,? Westlake said. ?You?re at the meet, you have to pretend that you?ve been there before. You?re on the same level as them at that point.?