Sunday, July 1, 2012

U.S. Olympic Trials: Day Seven Prelims

Qualifying heats wrapped up at the Trials this morning with a relatively low-key session of two events. The crowd thinned out compared to yesterday's prelims, especially after the conclusion of the women's 50 free. In the 18th and final heat of that women's 50 free, though, the crowd stood up and applauded the five-time Olympian swimming in lane three, Dara Torres. Torres finished second in her heat in 25.00, her top time in three years, and she will swim from lane three in the second semi-final tonight. She remains a wildcard as to whether she will make the team, but she showed this morning that she will be in the race.

After winning the 100 free last night, I expected a rough morning from Jessica Hardy in the 50 free. I thought she would end up in the semi-finals before waking up and putting together a much stronger performance in tonight's semi-final. However, Hardy swam great this morning, her 24.55 vaulting her into the top-eight in the world. Three swimmers not yet on the team rounded out the top four this morning. Lara Jackson finished third in 2008, but she did not get on the team when second-place Hardy stepped down from the Olympic team after testing positive. Jackson, the defending National champ in the event, goes for redemption tonight and tomorrow.

Megan Romano, Lara Jackson, Jessica Hardy, and Dara Torres walking up the stairs for their 50 free heat.
Meanwhile, SwimMAC teammates Madison Kennedy and Kara Lynn Joyce tied for third. Kennedy has her best chance to get on the team in the 50 after going out fast in the 100 free but fading to eighth. Joyce, meanwhile, did not even advance out of the prelims of the 100, but she has twice made the 50 free final at the last two Olympics. Both have their best shots to get on the team in the 50, but both face an uphill battle to finish in the top two.

Following the women's 50, the crowd mostly filed out, and those who remained fell silent for two hours. Before long, Andrew Gemmell woke the crowd up with a 14:57 mile to jump into the top five in the world. In the next heat, Connor Jaeger pulled away from Peter Vanderkaay to take the heat. He came into the wall at 14:59.97... and he kept going! Jaeger turned on the afterburners as if he had 100 meters go to. He flipped at the 1550, and then picked his head up and turned around to look at the lap counter. Confused when he didn't see one, he stopped halfway down the pool. Jaeger then received an ovation as he paddled back to the wall as the second qualifier.

Connor Jaeger signing autographs after an impressive swim in the 1575 free.
All of the main contenders got into the final. Vanderkaay finished second in his heat for fourth overall behind Gemmell, Jaeger, and Andrew Gemmell. In the final heat, Chad La Tourette engaged in a tight race with Michigan swimmers Sean Ryan and Ryan Feeley, and he ended up pulling out the win with a sub-28 final lap. La Tourette remains the favorite, despite just claiming the sixth seed, but I expect a tight race in the final tomorrow night. We won't know who really pushed it today and who has a lot left until we see the eight men dive in tomorrow.

I know, I didn't mention Missy Franklin or anyone in the women's 200 back in my blog last night. Not much happened in the semi-final besides Franklin probably exerting too much energy before her 100 free. I think Franklin gets her second win tonight and clinches a fourth individual event for London. The battle behind her should shape up between Elizabeth Beisel and Elizabeth Pelton, who has one last shot to make the team tonight. Watch out for records tonight; Franklin could dip under her own American record, a 2:05.10 from Worlds last year, and maybe she could take a shot at Kirsty Coventry's world record of 2:04.81. Franklin has not looked 100% this week, perhaps saving her best for the Olympics, but she will put everything she has left into one last swim tonight.

Michael Phelps and Tyler McGill highlight the men's 100 fly, but McGill looks vulnerable in the race for second, with Tom Shields, Davis Tarwater, and Tim Phillips, along with last night's tripler Ryan Lochte, all in the mix. Two-time World champion Kate Ziegler goes for her second Olympic team in the 800 tonight, and she looked strong in prelims. Youngsters Gillian Ryan and Katie Ledecky both have one last shot to become Olympians tonight, and Chloe Sutton has confidence after making the team in the 400, but Ziegler has a kick the last 50 that distance swimmers worldwide envy, and she will catch anyone she is close to the last lap.

Brendan Hansen made the Olympic team on Tuesday in the 200 breast. Besides Brendan, though, none of the major comebacks have as of yet ended in Olympic berths. That could change tonight, with top-seed Anthony Ervin in the men's 50 free. Ervin has the speed to win it all, but Nathan Adrian has racked up enough experience the last four years in the 50 free, including a Pan Pacs win over Cesar Cielo in 2010. Josh Schneider, meanwhile, has a bronze from Short Course Worlds to his credit. This is the men's 50 free, the fastest race in the pool. A race we will see.

Women's 200 Back
1. Missy Franklin
2. Elizabeth Beisel

Men's 100 Fly
1. Michael Phelps
2. Tyler McGill

Women's 800 Free
1. Kate Ziegler
2. Chloe Sutton

Men's 50 Free
1. Nathan Adrian
2. Anthony Ervin

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