Sports

Oak Harbor girls among elite

It seems unfathomable.

While most towns would be proud to have one athlete vie for a spot in the Olympic games; Oak Harbor has two.

Molly O’Rourke, 21, and Missy McIntyre, 16, both qualified for the 2004 United States Olympic Trials in their respective sports.

O’Rourke, the top-ranked U.S. female judo athlete in the 78 kg weight class, will compete this Saturday, June 5 in San Jose, Calif., for a spot on the Olympic team. Just the top five athletes from each weight class get to participate in the trials and only the champion from that group is allowed to move on to the Olympics.

“I am still letting the whole experience sink in,” O’Rourke said in an e-mail interview. “I know it’s the biggest event in my life, but right now I’m just focused on training and I don’t want this to go to my head—I believe if I did, I would lose focus on what I need to be doing.”

O’Rourke, a 2001 OHHS graduate, has lived in Northern California for the past two years where she’s trained at East Bay Judo Academy under the instruction of former Olympian and sixth-degree Black Belt David Matsumoto. Prior to moving to California, O’Rourke flew to the Bay Area once every weekend for six months to train.

Unlike many at her skill level, O’Rourke’s judo roots don’t run very deep. She didn’t get involved with the sport until the eighth grade, just seven years ago.

“I started because a friend of mine did judo and I went with her to class and enjoyed the practice, so I kept going back,” she said. “I also had to fulfill a PE requirement for school.”

O’Rourke didn’t want to elaborate on her chances in the upcoming trials, but agreed to speak more about the experience afterwards.

McIntyre, who is wrapping up her junior year at OHHS, guaranteed herself a spot in the Olympic Trials at last summer’s USA Nationals by setting a qualifying mark in the 100 breaststroke. Her time of 1:12.57 was two one-hundredths of a second under the qualifying mark.

“That was an awesome experience,” she said.

In one week, June 10, McIntyre will have a chance to qualify for the trials in the 50 freestyle at the Janet Evans Invitational in Long Beach, Calif. Her best time in the event is 26.89 seconds. She would require a 26.59 to move on.

As for getting an opportunity to compete in the Olympic Trials, McIntyre is still letting the thought sink in.

“It’s intense,” she said. “It’s going to be lots of fun—I want to meet all the swimmers.”

At the same time, McIntyre knows it’s important to realize she is there as an athlete —not a fan.

“I have to remember that I’m in the Olympic Trials too,” she said.

With the 100 breaststroke world record holder, Tara Kirk, in her event, McIntyre is also a realist. Kirk’s time of 1:04.79 is over seven seconds faster than McIntyre’s best. While she will certainly dream high, McIntyre’s focus will be more on soaking in the experience in 2004 and preparing herself for the 2008 Olympics.

“This will be a great chance for me to see what it’s like,” she said.

The U.S. Olympic Trials for swimming take place July 7-14 in Long Beach, Calif. The 100 breast semi-finals are on Thursday, July 8. The finals, which are set to be aired on the USA television network, are July 9.

As if two wasn’t an impressive number, Oak Harbor just missed having a third entrant in the Olympic Trials. OHHS senior Marti Malloy was initially told that she had qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 56 kg judo division. Malloy, who thought she had the fifth and final seed sewn up, was recently notified by the Olympic Committee that she was a half point shy of making the cut.

“It was a pretty big disappointment,” she said. “If they would have told me sooner, I would have been able to compete in more events and earn more points.”

Malloy would have been a prime contender in her class, as she had beaten all the competitors above her at least once.

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