Success with Honor: Pat Schirk
Nov. 4, 2008
By Beth Meyer, Penn State Athletic Communications Studen Assistant
For Penn State senior Pat Schirk, walking out for his first semifinal swim at the Olympic trials is a moment he will never forget.
"The atmosphere at the trials was awesome. It was in a basketball arena and there were 17,000 people there to watch a swim meet," Schirk said. "There were people everywhere."
Schirk swam in the 100-meter backstroke and the 200-meter backstroke at the trials, which were held from June 29 to July 6 in Omaha, Nebraska. He entered the trials seeded 12th in the 100 and sixth in the 200. He finished in eighth place in both events.
"It was pretty cool to have people in the lanes next to me breaking all kinds of records," Schirk said. "I finished eighth in both my events but I thought I should have finished higher."
"I was swimming in the lane next to Aaron Peirsol who won the gold medal in Beijing, and I was with him through the 75 [meter mark]," Schirk said of his excitement about swimming against current and former Olympians.
The Pottstown native said that although the Olympic trials were exciting and his success there gave him confidence for his senior season, his favorite international meet was the Japan International Grand Prix meet held in Chiba, Japan where he swam for the U.S. National Team. Schirk finished fourth in the 200-meter backstroke and was the top American finisher in the event.
"It was pretty cool to get to swim against the Australian Olympic team and the Japanese International team," the 21-year-old said of his experience in Japan.
The meet was held the August before Schirk's junior year and helped propel him to a successful junior season. The Owen J. Roberts High School graduate became the first NCAA National Champion in the history of Penn State men's or women's swimming when he finished first in the 200-meter backstroke.
"Ben Hesen of Indiana was seeded first and I was seeded second, so when he didn't make the finals I knew that it was my race to lose," Schirk said.
It is fitting that Schirk was able to become the national champion of the 200-meter backstroke because it is his favorite event to swim, although not necessarily his favorite event to train for.
"It's a blessing and a curse," Schirk said. "It's my bread and butter event but I think that it's the hardest event out there."
The Penn State men's team finished tied for 23rd overall at the NCAA Championships, its highest finish since 2002, due in large part to the success of Schirk. The supply chain and information systems major also considered attending Texas, Michigan, Georgia and Indiana.
"I made a lot of trips to Penn State during the recruiting process and I really liked the atmosphere of the town and the attitude of the team," Schirk said. "They were the best group of guys, bar none."
Although he will graduate in May, Schirk looks forward to continuing his swimming career. He is optimistic he will be able to find a place to train and hopefully prepare for London and the 2012 Olympics.
"A year ago I would have said I wasn't considering the 2012 Olympics, but seeing how I fell short of my own expectations [in 2008] made me really think about it," said Schirk.