Straehle Invitational

Zoe Waddell, 12, of Catonsville, dons a Michael Phelps swim cap at the Straehle Invitational meet in Hampstead on Wednesday, July 25. (Brian Krista/Patuxent Homestead / July 25, 2012)

As young swimmers converged on the Straehle Invitational swim meet in Hampstead on Wednesday, some from the Towson area were thinking of one of their heroes - Michael Phelps.

Katie McComas, with the Springlake Swim Club in Timonium, said that she was inspired by the fact that Phelps was from their area and became a world champion.

"You don't have to be from some really famous place in the world to be great," she said.

Her teammate, Grace Hansen, said her personal encounter with Phelps in 2002 made a big impact on her.

"He came and visited my brother (Steven) when my brother was diagnosed with cancer," she said. "He came to my house and visited him, played basketball with him, and he was my brother's best friend."

Chan Park, a swimmer from the Padonia Park Club in Cockeysville, said that Phelps' performance in Beijing was what really influenced him. 

"I think he gave all of his strength into it," Chan said. 

Another Springlake swimmer, Olivia Parsons, had some advice for Phelps as he goes into the London Games.

"Stay focused and keep your eye on the prize, and win it for America."