A for Athlete


Winnetka's Dwyer sets sights on Olympics[]

April 27, 2010 By JASON SHIMBERG Contributor

MEN'S SWIMMING -- In only three short years since Conor Dwyer left his Winnetka, Illinois, hometown, he's taken a fantastic voyage to the ports of success and notoriety.

Why is it that every four years we take notice of the Summer Olympic Games, but we don't pay the same attention to what happens in the interim?

Having traveled down a fortuitous path on his way to become one of the best young swimmers in the nation, Dwyer's goal now is to be considered among the best in the world. This local hero, Olympic hopeful, 2010 SEC Swimmer of the Year and 2010 NCAA Swimmer of the Year reads his own press clippings and isn't afraid to match the expectations.

At the University of Florida, Dwyer, a junior, is relaxed and happy in the same state where his mother Jeanne rose to prominence as a swimmer. She swam at Florida's rival Florida State, less than three hours away from Gainesville in Tallahassee.

Like his mother, Conor can move in the water.

In late March, at the NCAA championships, Dwyer came from behind to win the 500-yard freestyle in 4:13.64. The time broke his own school record that he set in the preliminary round with a 4:14.58.

Dwyer also won the 200 freestyle event at the national meet with a pool-record time of 1:32.31.

Dwyer's record-breaking day won the Gators a national title in the freestyle event for the first time since 1986. The team finished fifth overall in its quest for a national team title.

For his efforts, Dwyer has cemented himself on a short list of this country's best freestyle swimmers.

Now, Dwyer has set his sights on a lifetime dream where a qualifying time breaks down into tenths of seconds.

Michael Phelps fourteen gold medals not withstanding, swimming exploits seldom reach the front of the sports page. But the casual fan of swimming is starting to become aware of this Winnetka sensation.

Growing up in the cold Chicago climate, swimming dreams are not prototypical, but for Dwyer it is hard to imagine doing anything else. He could have excelled at a number of sports, but Dwyer wanted to use his athleticism to swim for as long as he could remember. And he is well aware of those that came before him with hopes of making his own history.

Dwyer's attraction to swimming is logical as his mother provided the necessary bloodlines.

Olympic athletes need the benefit of genetic material and solid coaching to realize the dream, and Dwyer's not one to squander his inheritance.

"I grew up in Winnetka with lots of cousins that all played sports together," he said. "The family support is definitely a key to my success. We always text or e-mail after a big meet, I love hearing from them."

Dennis Stonequist, Loyola Academy's boys swimming coach, knows how to prepare his swimmers for college competition. Dwyer credits Stonequist with pushing him through many hours of drills that helped him confront the challenge of longer distances.

"Coach knows college swimming, so he had us do a lot of yardage in preparation," he said. "He was always happy how we represented Loyola Academy at the big meets."

Dwyer's thoughts on making the Olympic dream a reality are well grounded.

"I think the Olympics are definitely realistic if I keep training as hard as I have been training in the past year and put together another two good years," he said. "It is definitely a possibility. A dream that could hopefully come true."

Transferring from Iowa to Florida was not an easy move. While in Iowa City, he set a Hawkeye record in the 100 free with a 43.67 at the 2009 Big Ten championships.

"It was definitely a difficult decision because I had really good friends there, and everything was great," said Dwyer, who didn't have to sit out a year after receiving a waiver from the NCAA. "But once I came to the University of Florida, I made new friends and good training buddies, and Olympic connections. I knew if I wanted to accomplish my Olympic dream it would be the right place for me. Iowa was great for me and we had a very established program, so it was definitely a tough decision but it was timely that I made it."

Dwyer's senior year of college competition is ahead of him, and his goals and aspirations are clear.

"Team-wise I definitely would like to move up and I would like to have fun and try to do my best," he said. "Winning is always a goal, but I want to have balance, which includes having fun."

Winnetka's potential Olympian continues to swim toward a lifelong dream while creating lasting memories along the way.