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Local college athletes staying busy this summer

Pat Byrnes wishes he could tell you what he's doing this summer.

But giving details about work isn't an option for the Loyola rising senior lacrosse player, who has an internship with the Secret Service.

"I can't really tell you what I do on a day-to-day basis," said Byrnes, whose father, Gerry, was in the Secret Service for more than 20 years. "My supervisor didn't allow me."

Byrnes, who works mostly in the Inner Harbor, loosely described his duties as "whatever they want me to do." He would not elaborate further.

But he did admit that he hasn't met anyone famous.

"No, not yet," the midfielder said with a chuckle.

Byrnes said it's tough for him to stay tight-lipped with his friends, who can chat freely about the duties of their summer internships or jobs.

"I'm pretty outgoing," Byrnes said. "It's hard and funny to say you can't tell them. I just tell them I basically do intern work."

Growing up, Byrnes heard his father recount his adventures in the Service, which piqued his interest in pursuing the career path.

Gerry Byrnes spent most of his Service employment in former President Ronald Reagan's detail. He wasn't in the detail during the failed assassination attempt on Reagan in March 1981.

"Dad never pushed me into this," Pat Byrnes said. "Just seeing his friends and knowing he did it helped."

Byrnes plans to continue his pursuit of being an agent after college. He is a communications major at Loyola with a concentration in public relations.

"Unfortunately they don't have a criminal justice major at Loyola," Byrnes said. "But it's definitely something I'm going to look into. You have to go through a pretty prolonged training."

After the summer, Byrnes will focus on academics and lacrosse training. He played in all 13 games last season for the Greyhounds and scored one goal on 12 shots.

"I'm just looking to finish out my last year of school and lacrosse and go from there," he said.

Following is a look at what some other local college athletes are up to this summer:

Meredith Budner
Towson, swimming

Meredith Budner scoffed when her aunt and uncle brought up the idea. No one in her family had ever set foot in Israel, let alone lived there.

"I didn't believe it at first," Budner said. "But we did some research, and it turned out it was possible."

Budner, a rising senior swimmer at Towson, will be traveling to Israel later this month to try out for the Israeli national swim team in hopes of competing at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Israeli law states that if you are Jewish, you are allowed to declare citizenship in Israel.

"I'm like 100 percent Jewish," Budner said. "And since Israel is a Jewish state, I was allowed to do that."

Budner traveled to Israel — which she called "the most beautiful place" she's seen — last summer and spent six days in the country, touring and gaining her citizenship. She said the process was fairly simple, although the forms she had to sign were completely in Hebrew.

"I'm not that familiar with Hebrew," Budner said. "So I was just signing and hoping everything was OK."

Accompanying her to Israel will be Towson coach Pat Meade, who said Budner has "a really good shot" of making the team.

"She's never really fully committed herself to the long course," Meade said. "This is the first time I've seen her do this. Basically what she needs to do is she's got to swim a time faster than what she's done before. But she's already on her way."

Long course is the common terminology for swimming in an Olympic-size pool, which is roughly twice the size of the pools Budner has competed in at Towson. But she's had a busy summer, training in Colorado for the past few weeks and competing in the Santa Clara (Calif.) Grand Prix.

She set personal records in every event she swam in at the Grand Prix.

"She's [Israel's] fastest swimmer," Meade said.

Budner was modest about her chances, saying they were "pretty good." She has maintained contact with Israeli team officials and is "absolutely excited" about the chance to represent the country.

"I've been learning all about Israel and its history as I've gone along," Budner said. "It's great to be a part of it now."

Ben Nelson
Navy, baseball

For most local college athletes, summer is a time for relaxation and occasional training sessions with other teammates. But for athletes at the Naval Academy, summer is consumed by rigorous training regimens designed to improve leadership and show cadets what life will be like when they become officers post-graduation.

Just 20 days after playing in the NCAA baseball tournament, Navy right-handed pitcher Ben Nelson traveled to California to take part in PROTRAMID, which is short for Professional Training for Midshipmen. PROTRAMID is a mandatory four-week crash course that introduces cadets to every major branch of the Navy and Marine Corps.

Nelson — a rising junior who was named the Patriot League tournament MVP after recording a league-record 18 strikeouts in two outings and guiding the Midshipmen to their first conference title since 2002 — left for California on June 24 and is in the midst of PROTRAMID.

Starting with Marine Week, PROTRAMID is divided into four week-long sessions in which cadets see what officers do on a day-to-day basis. After Marine Week, Nelson will go through Aviation Week, Surface Warfare Week and Submarine Week. Some of the highlights, Nelson said, are flying with a Navy pilot and getting spayed in the face with pepper spray.

"Last year I had my initial training and that was fun, but each year the training gets more exciting and more rigorous," said Nelson, who had a 4.91 ERA in 16 starts for the Midshipmen last season. "I'm excited because it's a way to see how the Navy works."

And even after Nelson finishes PROTRAMID, he won't be taking a break. Immediately following his last day in California on July 23, Nelson is planning on going to Alaska to complete an optional month-long training regimen called NOLS, short for National Outdoor Leadership School, where participants take turns leading each day's hike across the glaciers.

"NOLS is one I heard was a lot of fun, so I'm excited," Nelson said. "You wake up, make breakfast, go backpacking and then you eat lunch and hike some more. Then you camp for the night. You're always camping. You're never in the same place. You keep moving and finding new places to camp for the night."

Nelson thinks his time with the baseball team will help him during his summer endeavors.

"Being on the field, being an athlete, it really improves your leadership skills as a whole," he said. "So I'm hoping when I go into this leadership school, I'll be able to go all out and do well."

Jill Witmer
Maryland, field hockey

After a breakout freshman season at Maryland, Jill Witmer has only just begun her career as a dominant field hockey player.

The 5-foot-2 forward from Lancaster, Pa., will be taking her talents to Germany and Belgium this summer as a member of the U.S. Field Hockey Developmental Team. On August 1, Witmer and 12 other developmental squad players will travel with the Women's National Team to Monchengladbach, Germany to start preparing for a match against the German national team.

While overseas, Witmer will train with the U.S. team before it plays in multiple matches against Germany from Aug. 4-7. The U.S. team will then face off against Belgium from Aug. 10-14.

"It's like a tour pretty much," said Witmer, the 2010 ACC Freshman of the Year. "Playing with all the U.S girls against great competition in Germany should be fun. I'm really excited, but at the same time, I'm nervous too, because it's going to be older girls. But it will be good to help me with Maryland."

Witmer, who recorded 41 points and scored five game-winning goals for the Terps last season, said the possibility remains that she could be called up to the national team depending on what she does to impress coaches over the summer.

"It's definitely possible because we train with the national team," Witmer said. "If I do well enough, they could pull me up. I just have to show what I'm capable of."

Daniela Poss
Stevenson, basketball

For Daniela Poss, the choice between a sweat-soaked T-shirt paired with green and white Nike Zooms on a torrid blacktop and a white lab coat on the 10th floor of a perpetually brisk Bressler Research Building at the University of Maryland School of Medicine is a simple one.

Like a converted and-one layup, she'll take both.

This fall, Poss will begin her senior year at Stevenson University and — for a final time — juggle the grueling schedule that accompanies playing a collegiate sport while navigating a pre-med schedule.

And over the summer, Poss, 21, is taking strides to sharpen her basketball skills and bolster her medical school application.

From Monday through Friday, the former Good Counsel standout conducts research focused on a specific protein, PBK, that has been known to be over-expressed in leukemia cells. Poss's specific task is to transfect healthy cells with a gene that, if correct, will result in the transcription of PBK.

"By over expressing the gene, I should see an over expression of PBK in the normal cells," said Poss, who has a 3.97 GPA and hopes to attend the University of Maryland Medical School after graduation.

At the same time, Poss is working on her game daily, often beginning workouts with cardio or weight training before hitting the court for a ball handling or shooting session.

Chris Branch reported on Byrnes and Budner. Jakob Engelke reported on Nelson and Witmer. Matt Castello reported on Poss

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