In tonight's final of the men's 100 breast, the favorites include past U.S. Olympians Brendan Hansen, Mark Gangloff, and Eric Shanteau. Many know of Mike Alexandrov changing his nationality after representing Bulgaria in two Olympics or Kevin Cordes' emergence over the last year as one of America's best young talents. We have watched Marcus Titus fight to ensure that, as a deaf swimmer, he would have a fair chance at these Trials with a strobe light at the start, and if you think back a few years, you remember watching Clark Burckle win the 200 breast NCAA title back in 2010.
Well, that covers seven of the eight finalists. The other? Scott Weltz. Never heard of Scott Weltz? Not too surprising, honestly. Weltz has done a fantastic job of flying under the radar and peaking just when any athlete wants to – at Olympic Trials. Weltz swam at UC Davis from 2005 through 2010, redshirting the season prior to the 2008 Olympic Trials. He swam at the 2008 Trials but not the 100 breast; he swam in the 200 breast, both IMs, and the 400 free and did not finish higher than 30th. At NCAAs, he never made an A-final, settling for the consolation heats the whole way through. Before he posted times of 1:00.48 (prelims) and 1:00.20 (semis) yesterday, his best time was a 1:01.65 from Winter Nationals, where he won the consolation final. Only one other time had Weltz been under 1:02, and that came earlier this year at the Indianapolis Grand Prix.
In an interview last night with Swimming World, Weltz indicated that the key to his successful flying-under-the-radar has been swimming tired at meets throughout the year during intense training cycles. And that training is paying off. While no one will consider him a favorite, and it would be an upset, Scott Weltz could make the Olympic team tonight. Nobody picked him; nobody had any idea that he would be a factor. Of all the potential darkhorse candidates for Olympic Trials, Weltz came through and delivered in the first two rounds of the 100 breast to give himself a shot at his first Olympic team.
Weltz indicated in that interview that he thinks of himself as "more of a 200 guy." His times agree with that statement. Weltz' best in the 200 is a 2:12.37 from Winter Nationals, where he won the B-final in that event too. With his huge improvement in the 100, expect another big swim from him in the 200 breast. We love underdog stories in sports and seemingly-random swimmers coming from nowhere to put himself into contention to make the biggest swim meet on the planet. He has the lane; now, he has a chance to make the Olympics.