Olympic dreams: 3 Barrington volleyball players get invites to train with national program
An Olympic reality has its origin years before in a dream.
Three Barrington High School volleyball players are hoping they are at the start of the dream cycle.
Campbell Paris, an incoming junior on the girls team, and Jack O'Riordan, an incoming senior on the boys team along with Cole Hartke, an incoming sophomore, all received exciting invitations in the mail recently.
They were asked to be a part of USA Volleyball's weeklong national team development program July 18 in California.
The program includes boys and girls programs at various age levels, and is essentially a scouting network and training ground for future Olympic volleyball players.
The program takes place in the Anaheim facility where the Olympic team trains before it leaves for the Tokyo Olympics, which begins July 23.
"I feel so lucky to have this opportunity," said O'Riordan, who will be a part of the boys 18- and 19-year-old program, which will be bringing in the top 80 players around the country in that age group. "It's kind of crazy. We're going to be in the same place where the Olympic team will be. I've heard we might even get to watch them train a little bit. That will be so fun."
O'Riordan, a 6-foot-8 outside hitter who started playing club volleyball only two years ago but has improved exponentially as he's grown into his long frame, says he spends a lot of time on YouTube watching videos of the men's national team players and their games.
"It's so interesting," said O'Riordan, who is considering continuing his playing career at some of the top college programs in the country, such as Loyola, USC, Ohio State and Penn State. "They are very technical. I like watching what they do and how they play."
Paris, a 6-5 outside hitter, is also an Olympic volleyball fan.
She says outside hitter Jordan Larson, a 6-2 star from the University of Nebraska who will be playing in her third Olympic Games, is a favorite.
"I look up to her a lot," Paris said. "And it will be interesting to be in the actual building where the team trains. It's super cool.
"This is big honor even to be selected to this."
Paris is one of 75 girls across the country selected in the 17 and 18 group.
"The coaches running this are college coaches with a ton of experience," she said. "I'm going to be playing with the best players in the country. My height is something that will help me stand out. I'm excited for this experience."
Hartke, a 6-9 outside hitter whose mother Amy Foulke played volleyball at Northern Illinois in the '90s, just finished his freshman season and started every game for the Broncos' varsity.
Now, he'll be with 76 of the best 15- and 16-year-olds in the country.
"I'm really excited for this," he said. "This program will be trying to get us to be the best we can be so we can play for USA Volleyball someday."
Hartke knows the drill well.
His older brothers, Gabriel and Luke, have been part of the USA Volleyball training programs in the past.
Gabriel plays at Penn State and Luke, who just graduated from Barrington, will begin his career at Illinois Wesleyan.
The experience of playing varsity as a freshman and alongside his brother was invaluable to Hartke.
"Playing with older kids really helped make me better," he said. "I liked playing with my brother. That was the first time I've ever been on the same team as him. That really helped me a lot."
Hartke grew up watching his brothers' volleyball matches and learned how to study the game.
"I watched them grow, I saw how they played and that helped me," Hartke said. "I learned everything they learned by watching them."
Now, Hartke studies YouTube videos of the USA national team.
"I watch their highlights a lot," Hartke said. "It's great to learn from them and it's pretty awesome that we're going to be (in California) training in the same place as them.
"The goal is to get as far as you can. I've been thinking about that a lot. For me, it (a chance at a spot on the Olympic team) would probably be eight years from now. I can't wait to see what happens."