Renny Richmond is getting used to the big stage.
The senior-to-be at Seabury Hall left Sunday for the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Omaha, Neb., where he is seeded 30th - with a qualifying time of 53.88 seconds - in the 100-meter butterfly event that is set for Saturday.
Michael Phelps is the top seed at 50.65. Ryan Lochte is the fifth seed at 52.32.
Renny Richmond, a senior-to-be at Seabury Hall, is set to compete in the 100-meter butterfly on Saturday at the U.S. Olympic trials.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
This is the world Richmond lives in now.
"I am so excited, I'm just really stoked, it is going to be a great experience, just to get in the pool with those guys and just go for it," Richmond said Saturday after finishing in 57.91 at a Maui Age Group Swimming Association meet at the Kihei Aquatic Center in his final tune-up. "It is going to be really cool because I will probably be in one of the seeded heats, I might even be in the pool with Phelps. To be in the pool watching those guys swim, it will just be a great experience, a real learning experience."
Richmond, 17, is the defending junior national champion in the 100-meter fly and took a serious run at the national high school record in the 100-yard event at the state championships at Kihei in February. Already owning five state titles, he is poised to become the most decorated Maui Interscholastic League boy swimmer ever - the record is six, set by former Baldwin and University of Hawaii standout Cheyne Bloch.
Randall Tom, a four-time state champion for Seabury who went on to star at UC Irvine, and Cheyne's brother Chase Bloch, a former standout youth swimmer on Maui before moving to California, are also in the 100 fly in Omaha. Tom is seeded 40th and Bloch, who is swimming four events at the trials and just finished his sophomore year at Southern California, is seeded 65th.
Richmond said his goal is to make the semifinals - the top 16 in preliminary heats do that - but he admitted the Olympic team is on his mind. The top two finishers make the team in each event.
"Of course, I am always thinking about the Olympic team," Richmond said. "Everyone is, even the guy seeded 100th, hoping the 99 guys in front of him will drop dead or something. But really for me, I am really hoping to make semis. That would be really cool."
The 100 fly qualifying heats and semifinals are Saturday, with the final set for Sunday.
Richmond knows his best shot at the Olympic team will be in 2016 or perhaps 2020, but this meet could be a stepping stone along the way.
"This has been called one of the fastest meets in the world. ... Guys who get third and fourth (in the trials) would get third and fourth in the Olympics, but they don't make the team," he said. "I can't wait to get in the pool with these really fast swimmers and just to learn from them, just by watching them."
Richmond knows Tom, a two-time NCAA finalist and a relay silver medal winner at the short-course world championships, and said it will be good to have a familiar face on the pool deck with him.
"It is really cool to know that other people from here have gone out and done this before me," Richmond said. "It is kind of a little bit of a guarantee that I have a shot."
Richmond will travel with his parents and coach Tom Popdan, who has guided more than 30 qualifiers to three previous trials - in 1984, 1988 and 1992 - when he was in Florida and Philadelphia.
"I think this is more than just a learning experience," Popdan said. "He has had some good experience at the national level already. I think he is going to the meet with the intention of trying to better his best time and let the chips fall where they may."
Popdan knows that making the semifinals will not be easy.
"You probably figure that ninth to 60th all have a bona fide shot at making that top 16," Popdan said. "He is battling for eight spots probably amongst those 50 guys. The times he has swum at the national level, he has always been at his best, so we will see how he responds to going to the Olympic trials for the first time. ... This is a huge opportunity for him. I think he understands that some of the best swimmers in the world are in his event."