'He can float faster than I can swim' Swimming: That quip from Tommy Hannan's father exaggerates, of course, but you get the idea. This record-setting Mount St. Joseph star is ranked in two events nationally, going into college.

January 23, 1998|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Mount St. Joseph swimmer Tommy Hannan is local swimming's mystery man.

No one quite knows the origin of his athleticism or his innate aquatic skills, though rumor has it they came from his mother's side, said his father, Tom Hannan. He's called "an anomaly" by one of his coaches, all of whom are perplexed by Hannan's seemingly endless durability in workouts.

"He's a superb athlete with a natural gift and a great feel for the water," said Mount St. Joseph coach Greg McDivitt. "I think he's really looking forward to swimming in college, and because of his late start, I think his best swimming is ahead of him."

Hannan, a 6-foot-2, 190-pounder, has little difficulty getting across his passion for a sport he once left for three years.

"Competitive swimming is very strenuous, and you have to have a passion for it," said Hannan, who maintains a 3.5 grade average, scored 1,220 on his SAT and signed early to attend the University of Texas.

Hannan has tried baseball, gymnastics, soccer and frosh-soph football but, he said, "I've only gotten that thrill by moving fast in the water. Once you experience that adrenalin rush, it's challenge every time."

Hannan got a big thrill in last summer's junior nationals, where his 58.22-seconds finish in the 100-meter backstroke was the fastest time of any high school swimmer in the country.

His effort at that level earned Hannan a trip to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he trained with other swimmers who had finished No. 1 in their events.

The elder Hannan (6-4, 230) said "everything always seemed to come naturally for Tommy, athletically, which made it tougher focusing on one sport."

"My wife, Georgia, says Tommy gets his swimming abilities from her side, but that's only a rumor," said the senior Hannan. "I played intramural sports but nothing organized, and I can swim laps. But Tommy can probably float faster than I can swim."

The Gaels' most valuable swimmer last winter, Hannan is unbeaten in individual events over the past two seasons. Ranked No. 7 with a 50.3 in the 100-backstroke and No. 8 with a 49.80 in the 100-butterfly, Hannan also holds school records in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle, 100-backstroke, 100-butterfly and 200-individual medley and Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association records in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle.

Hannan won each of the nine events he swam at last weekend's Retriever Classic, which included nearly 30 teams from Washington D.C., Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina at UMBC.

There, Hannan set records in six of the nine events, including a 46.82 in the 100-freestyle that eclipsed the old one by Olympic freestyler Brad Schumacher.

Though Hannan began swimming 10 years ago, when he was 8, interest in other sports caused him to "quit swimming briefly."

Hannan returned to the water "in about the seventh grade, when I was about 13," swimming primarily at the Catonsville YMCA.

"I thought I still had a chance to be good," said Hannan, who joined the Hunting Hills swim club at 15. "There was a guy named John Vargo who said he thought I had talent. He was swimming for the [McDonogh-based club team] Eagles at the time, and he said he thought if I joined their team, they could make me a lot better."

Vargo is now an Eagles coach, along with Scott Ward and Sean Hutchison. Hannan, under Hutchison's supervision, has one of the club's toughest training regimens.

"He has 10 workouts within six days. It's morning and afternoon on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, just afternoon on Wednesday and about three hours on Saturday," said Hutchison, who lists former Olympic coach Eddie Reese -- Hannan's coach-to-be at Texas -- as one of his sources for the Spartan workouts.

"Monday and Friday, beginning about 5 a.m., Tommy lifts weights for about 35 minutes and swims for about an hour. Tuesday and Thursday, starting at 5: 20 a.m., he swims for an hour," Hutchison said. "It's dry-land exercises [for an hour] every afternoon, followed by swimming until about 7: 15."

Dry-land exercises include "medicine balls, a lot of abdominal work, lots of jumping," Hutchison said. "Carrying people on your back for stadium running or stairs -- that's going to really develop the power in your legs."

The heaviest training came during a period from Dec. 23-Jan. 2, when "we did two workouts just about every day -- two hours per morning and three hours an afternoon," Hutchison said. "It worked out to about 10 or 11 miles a day, plus weight lifting."

Hannan's training will taper off for peak performance in the nationals in April and in Minnesota and California in August.

"Most swimmers who get a late start like Tommy did, they can't handle what Tommy can handle," Hutchison said. "We have some swimmers who can train like him, but he's adapted better than anyone I know."

Pub Date: 1/23/98

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