Thomas Olsen of Parkrose repeated as 5A champion in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle in last season's 5A championships.
Thomas Olsen of Parkrose repeated as 5A champion in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle in last season's 5A championships.

Coming off an outstanding short-course season in club swimming last winter, Parkrose's Thomas Olsen had high expectations for what he could accomplish in the long-course season during the spring and summer.

Unfortunately for the USC-bound Olsen, those plans didn't come to fruition.

“I kind of disappointed myself as a swimmer,” Olsen said. “Long-course kind of pokes holes in your race.”

Determined to bounce back, the distance freestyler cranked up his training with Multnomah Athletic Club. Early this month, it paid dividends when he swam a personal-best 4 minutes, 23.85 seconds in the 500-yard freestyle to take sixth place at the Speedo Winter Junior Championship West meet. The time is faster than the all-time OSAA meet record of 4:25.02, set by Jesuit graduate Diego Nosack in the 6A meet last season.

“The work I put in and the pacing I do in practice, and the level of stress that I train under, it definitely wasn't a surprise,” Olsen said. “But it's still very satisfying. And the season isn't over yet.”

Given that the short-course season runs concurrent with his senior high school season, Olsen also is looking to finish his Parkrose career in style. Last season, he repeated as 5A champion in the 200 freestyle (1:39.14) and 500 freestyle (4:26.52), setting 5A meet records in both events.

“I was very happy,” said Olsen, who in 2022 became Parkrose's first state champion since 1977. “Breaking the 5A state record was something that I planned on doing. But there's still a lot left on the plate that I feel like I can improve.

“Heading into my senior year, I think a lot of the pressure has been off just knowing that I have my college lined up. I'm racing a lot looser and a lot more free. Just putting in a lot of good, consistent work. Seeing it pay off at the big level like that is really cool.”

Olsen grew up in the Parkrose-based Blue Crush Aquatic Club and switched to MAC during in the fall of 2020 – along with his sister, Signe, a sophomore on the team at Parkrose – to get consistent practice time during the COVID crisis. He credits much of his development to MAC coach Tim Larkin.

“He has essentially changed my life,” Olsen said. “He didn't need to take me in during the pandemic. It was a stressful time, but he accommodated me and my sister. It's hard switching coaches, but I put my trust in him since Day 1. I really appreciate everything he's done for me.”

The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Olsen committed to USC in January. The Trojans are emerging as a national power with the addition of freshman twins from Poland, Krzysztof and Michal Chmielewski

“It gets me really excited,” Olsen said. “It's giving me motivation in practice because I know the second I step foot on USC it's going to be a war zone practicing with them all day. I definitely know I'm going to have to raise my game, but it's a challenge I'm looking forward to.”

The USC coaching staff has assistant Brooks Fail, who won the Pac-12 title in the mile as a senior at Arizona in 2022, and Fail's former coach at Arizona, Pete Richardson.

“There's a lot of knowledge in the coaching of events that I swim,” Olsen said. “That's one of the reasons I committed to USC.”

Olsen, who will race in the 1,650 freestyle and 1,000 freestyle in college, said the state meet will be the last time he ever competes in the 500 freestyle. He likes his chances of taking down Nosack's OSAA meet record, but won't be tapering his training for the OSAA championships.

“At the end of the day, there's more to life than just holding the OSAA record,” Olsen said. “It's something that I'd love to have. I know there's a lot of talent in Oregon right now that will challenge me with that record. And also Diego Nosack is one of the best to ever come through Oregon, so there's a lot of respect on his record. It won't be easy, but it's definitely something that I'm looking at.”

Olsen is within two seconds of the OSAA meet record in the 200 freestyle (1:37.27, Luke Thornbrue, Century, 2019), but considering his training is more aerobic-based, he isn't putting much stock in a shorter race.

“The 200 is kind of on the low end of the spectrum for me,” Olsen said. “The mile is my best event. The longer the event, the better I do. So when you get below the 500, that's when I'm not able to perform like my other events.

“The 200 is a fun race to swim. It's really nice to kind of meet the sprinters in the middle. That's one of those things where I'm going to swim the race, just trying to go as fast as possible, and if I get the record, I get the record.”