Cory Knopp has learned a lot from training with world-record holder and North Baltimore Aquatic Club teammate Michael Phelps, but there's one lesson that sticks out.
"It's just his attitude that he doesn't like to lose," said Knopp, 17, a part-time student at Aberdeen High, where he is a senior. "That's what I'd love to take from him."
It was that mind-set that drove Knopp to one of the finest moments of his young career. At a meet last month in Alabama that, besides the NBAC, included teams from the University of Southern California and Auburn, Knopp helped his 800-meter freestyle relay team place first with a late surge to beat a USC swimmer.
"I just didn't want to lose to that guy," said Knopp, who teamed with Phelps, Kevin Clements and Nico Zebley. "It felt awesome to come through."
Knopp hopes there are more moments like that one ahead. His sights are set on a posting a qualifying time for the U.S. Olympic trials in July.
He needs to shave about nine seconds off his time in the 1,500.
"I could take nine seconds off by just doing my turns better," said Knopp, who started swimming at age 10 in the Edgewood recreational program. "But I'm not really focusing on 2004. I just want to be there for the trials. But the 2008 Olympics - that's my goal."
Knopp, who is being recruited by some top collegiate swimming programs, is working toward that with a rigid training schedule augmented by his part-time status at school.
He did take time out this winter to swim with his high school team, a move that wasn't well received by some in Harford County.
Knopp said he received some letters of complaint that focused on his not attending any high school practices. He emphatically denied those accusations, saying he showed up for more than enough practices to make him eligible.
"Technically, everything we did was legal," said Knopp, who broke four county records during the regular season, but missed last week's county championships because he was in Orlando, Fla., at USA Swimming's Spring Nationals.
"I was doing it just to have fun and if other people can't see that, then what am I going to do? I just brush [the criticism] off."
Meanwhile, at a school that has crowned a state champion in football and in golf already this year, Knopp can keep a low profile.
"I think some of my classmates have an idea, but most of the kids in our school don't know the stature of the NBAC," Knopp said. "But I don't care about the publicity. I just swim because that's what I love doing."
Tscheulin takes prize
It was not exactly what John Carroll senior heavyweight Zack Tscheulin envisioned after he broke an ankle at a wrestling camp in July.
Tscheulin (31-6) had never placed before in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association championships, but last weekend he pinned his way to a title, becoming the first Patriot to capture an MIAA crown.
"I was pretty amazed that I won," said Tscheulin, who entered the Maryland Independent State Wrestling Tournament this weekend as the top seed. "All the work I had done from the beginning of the summer until now just came together."
Tscheulin, who had surgery in late July, stayed off his feet for six weeks, and gained 25 pounds because of inactivity.
Once he was cleared by his doctor, he hit the gym, and last weekend, he got his payoff.
Title matchup set
The inaugural Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference basketball champions will be crowned Wednesday in a doubleheader at C. Milton Wright.
Tipping off at 5:30 p.m., the girls game pits Aberdeen against Edgewood in a rematch of a mid-December game that Aberdeen won, 43-41.
The Rams (17-5, 9-1 league), the Susquehanna Division champions, set a school record for wins this season, breaking the old mark of 14.
"The last five games between us have probably been decided by a total of 15 points, but Aberdeen won all five," said Edgewood's first-year coach, Fred Hammett. "It's just going to come down to the little things, but we'll be ready."
Aberdeen is 19-3 overall and won the Chesapeake Division with a 10-2 league record.
"We're pumped up," said Eagles coach Brandi Barnes. "They are a big rival of ours."
In the boys game, Aberdeen (13-6, 10-1) will represent the Chesapeake Division, most likely against Harford Tech (13-7, 10-0), which closes its league schedule tomorrow at Elkton.
Mustangs on roll
With the state playoffs looming, the C. Milton Wright girls basketball team is the hottest team in the county.
The Mustangs (17-4, 9-3) closed the regular season by winning 11 of their last 12 games; included in that stretch was a 36-34 victory over Aberdeen and two overtime victories over Fallston on back-to-back nights this week.
With those victories, C. Milton Wright overtook the Cougars for second place in the Chesapeake Division.