June 23, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The South Carolina swimming program will have 13 athletes with Gamecock ties competing at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials beginning on Monday at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.
The Trials run through July 2 with more than 1,700 athletes vying for a chance to represent their country at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England. The U.S. Olympic Team can have up to 26 men and 26 women on its roster, as the top two finishers in each individual event are guaranteed a spot on the team.
Current Gamecocks heading to the Trials include Michael Flach, Matt Navata, Alex Vance, Jay Warner, Matt Columbus and Brooks Ross on the men's side and Rachael Schaffer, Abby Galbreath, Annika Jonsson and Whitney Avers on the women's side. Three former South Carolina swimmers also qualified to swim, as Kyle Cormier, Nick Walkotten and Bridget Halligan will represent the Gamecocks. All 13 athletes achieved qualifying times on a 50-meter long course at various events, including during the NCAA season, from Oct. 1 2009 through June 18, 2012. South Carolina head coach McGee Moody couldn't be happier with the number South Carolina is sending to Omaha.
"It's big for our program," Moody said. "It's good because there's coverage on NBC, so there will be millions of people that have the opportunity to see our swimmers compete on the biggest stage. It's not very often that swimmers get to talk about competing in front of 18,000 or 19,000 people on a nightly basis. It's something that we are preparing our athletes for. They've done a great job with their preparation and their practice. I'm really looking forward to it."
Flach, who was a 2011 All-American in the 500 freestyle, took an Olympic redshirt this season, which allowed him to focus all of his training on the Trials. He has one of the busiest schedules of all the Gamecocks as he is slated to compete in the 200 and 400 freestyle and the 100 and 200 butterfly. A native of Annandale, Va., Flach enters the meet with the 11th best seed time in the 200 butterfly, while he is seeded 20th in the 400 freestyle, 30th in the 200 freestyle and 119th in the 100 butterfly.
"(The Olympic redshirt) was a tough decision that I definitely didn't rush into," Flach said. "I got to focus on what is coming up this summer. The Olympic Trials is a huge deal for this sport. It doesn't get bigger than that. I got a lot of great training this year, and after this I'll have two more years to be a Gamecock."
Flach wasn't alone during his training sessions in Columbia, as Columbus and Ross trained with him in preparation for the Trials. Columbus will swim in the 400 freestyle, while Ross will compete in the 1,500 freestyle.
"It's really important in swimming to have a good group around you to train with, and Matt and Brooks trained with Michael on a daily basis," Moody said. "You have those guys around you that are familiar with what you've been doing, and they are around you and supporting you 100 percent. It's good to have those guys out there with (Flach)."
Navata achieved qualifying times in both the 200 and 400 IM, while Warner will swim the 100 butterfly. Vance is penciled in to compete in the 200 breaststroke.
Schaffer, a rising junior, will be the busiest Gamecock women's swimmer as she will swim the 200 and 400 IM and the 100 and 200 breaststroke. Galbreath will join her in the 400 IM, while Jonsson will be in the 200 IM and the 200 butterfly. Avers is the most recent Gamecock to qualify as she achieved her trial time in the 200 butterfly in May.
"All of these girls have been training in our IM group," Moody said. "They've all shown huge improvements over the last few years. We are expecting big things from these girls too. We look at some of these events and see a shot for them to get some second swims and see how far they can go in their events."
As for the former Gamecocks, Cormier and Walkotten were both two-time All-Americans during their days in Columbia. Walkotten will swim in the 100 butterfly, while Cormier is scheduled to compete in the 100 and 200 freestyle and the 200 IM. Halligan, who was one of Carolina's top sprinters from 2007-11, qualified for the 50 freestyle.
The top 16 swimmers in each event 200 meters and shorter will advance to the semifinals, where the number will be cut down to eight for the final. In the women and men's 400 freestyle, women and men's 400 IM, the women's 800 freestyle and the men's 1,500 freestyle, only a preliminary heat and a final will be contested.
Each day of competition will include preliminary heats in the morning with finals at night. The Trials will begin on Monday with the men's 400 IM, 400 freestyle and 100 breaststroke and the women's 100 butterfly and 400 IM. Live results for each event and live video of all but the fastest preliminary heats will be available by clicking here. NBC and the NBC Sports Network will also provide live and same-day video of the heats and finals.
Prelims Schedule for South Carolina Swimmers (semifinal and final dates in parenthesis)
Thursday, June 28
Friday, June 29
Monday, July 2
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