Jensen Wins 400m Free At 2008 Olympic Trials Opener

June 29, 2008

Trojan great Larsen Jensen, already the American record holder and Olympic silver medalist in the 1500-meter freestyle, showed he's got enough speed and racing guile to set the U.S. standard over 400 meters, winning the race on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials' first day and punching his ticket to the Beijing Olympics on Sunday (June 29) at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb.

Jensen won the 400m free in 3:43.53, erasing Peter Vanderkaay's six-week old American record of 3:43.82. Vanderkaay went under his old time as well, taking second to earn the other Olympic berth at stake in 3:43.73.

Left on the outside looking in was a pair of former Trojan teammates, Erik Vendt (3:43.92) and Klete Keller (3:46.36), who finished third and fourth, respectively. Vendt is the top seed in the 1500m free, slated for the final two days of the meet (June 5-6) while Keller still can make the squad in the 100 or 200 or perhaps a relay. Keller won bronze in the 400m free at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.

Jensen, fourth in the 400m free at the 2004 Olympics, trailed Vanderkaay by 0.02 after 150 meters on Sunday, but took over the lead shortly after and edged in front by 0.27 at the halfway mark. Jensen extended the advantage to 0.75 after 300 meters, though Vanderkaay closed to within 0.14 with 50 meters to go. But Jensen had enough to hold off Vanderkaay as well as a hard-charging Vendt, whose final 50 meters (27.43) was the fastest non-opening leg of the race, but not enough to earn an Olympic berth.

'I just tried to bury my head and swim as fast as I could,' said Jensen, who will also swim the 200m free. 'I knew (Vanderkaay, Vendt and Keller) were fast chargers and I needed to get my hand on the wall first.'

Former Trojan and two-time Olympian Kaitlin Sandeno, the silver medalist in the 400m IM at the 2004 Olympics, finished 10th in prelims on Sunday in 4:44.17, failing to qualify for the finals. She is still entered in numerous events and is the fourth seed in the 800m free, fifth in the 200m IM and is scheduled to race in the 200m fly and the 200m and 400m free.

Current Trojans who swam today included sophomore Dillon Connolly, who finished 35th in the 100m breast (1:03.41), and junior Kevin Bartell, who was 64th in the same race (1:05.09).

Senior Rachael Waller was 70th in the 100m fly (1:01.66).

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