Butler senior looks to expand her swimming success at Toledo
To Stephanie O'Toole, the rationale is breathtakingly simple.
“I like variety,” the Butler senior says so matter-of-factly. “It's always fun to do different things.”
Many agree. Hardly any, though, can be so proficient at the variety of things O'Toole can, at least when it comes to swimming.
O'Toole spent her season rewriting the Butler swimming record books. Other than 500 freestyle, name an event, O'Toole has swum it faster than anyone in the history of the Golden Tornado program.
“In a sport in which so many people specialize in and put their emphasis on such a few events, she is extremely versatile,” Butler swimming coach Dave Bocci said. “She can do everything — that's what makes her such a great IM-er. She probably has a top-three time in the WPIAL in everything right now outside of the 500 free.”
O'Toole, whose brother Patrick is a senior swimmer at Washington & Jefferson College, has committed to swim at the University of Toledo. Competing for an NCAA Division I school is doing so at a pretty high level. But O'Toole is used to surrounding herself with — and competing against — talented swimmers.
O'Toole spent the previous three years before her senior year in Maryland training with the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. That organization has produced seven U.S. Olympic team members that have combined for 19 Olympic gold medals — most by Michael Phelps — and 16 world records.
“I learned so much there; it was awesome,” O'Toole said. “It's really going to help me with the rest of my swimming career. Every day, I've used something that I learned down there, so it was really helpful.”
The training helped O'Toole qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials.
“The thing that separates her from most swimmers is she has a ton of experience,” said Bocci, formerly a men's and women's swimming team coach at Duquesne University.
“She has a lot of knowledge of the sport and has had a lot of great teachers — including her father (Butler YMCA swimmer Tim O'Toole) — as far as stroke mechanics. So she's very experienced, and she also has a very strong work ethic and a very strong desire to compete. So those are some pretty big elements you put together to result in the type of swimmer like her.”
O'Toole wrapped up her high school career by taking fifth place in the 100-yard butterfly at the PIAA Class AAA championships March 15.
O'Toole succeeds, in part, with a power and strength that belie her size.
“She's 5-4,” said Bocci, “but she swims like she's 6 feet tall.
“She's very powerful, but she also has a tremendous heart.”
Power and heart will help next year at Toledo swimming for a women's program that has won two of the past four MAC championships.
“She'll instantly make an impact on the team and in the Mid-American Conference,” Bocci said. “She can do a wide range of events, including events we don't swim in a high school program like the 400 (individual medley) and 200 breast. She has the ability to help right away in a wide range of events.”
Long range, O'Toole has some pretty lofty goals she's striving to attain.
“I definitely want to win some NCAA titles — that would be awesome — and the make Olympic Trials again in 2016,” O'Toole said. “See if I can make a final, or do even better.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.