Benko Makes Olympic Team In 200m Free; Sandeno Does It In 800m Free Relay

July 10, 2004

USC grad Lindsay Benko and Trojan junior Kaitlin Sandeno finished second and third, respectively, in a drama-packed 200m freestyle final at the 2004 U.S. Swimming Olympic Trials, Benko earning the right to swim the event individually in Athens, Sandeno picking up a spot on the 800m free relay on Saturday (July 10) in Long Beach, Calif.

Benko, the American record holder in the event who scratched from the 400m free final earlier in the meet to focus on the 200m free and the 100m free, finished second in 1:59.29, an eyelash behind teenage winner Dana Vollmer (1:59.20). Sandeno took third in 1:59.55. The top four finishers are guaranteed relay spots. (The fourth-place finisher will be a USC freshman in the fall but NCAA rules prohibit disclosing her name).

Benko, a gold medal winner on the 800m free relay in 2000, led after 150 meters at 1:58.25 while Vollmer and Sandeno turned for home tied for second at 1:58.98. As the trio sprinted toward the wall, it appeared Vollmer and Sandeno, in lanes three and five, respectively, were edging ahead of Benko in lane four. But Benko had enough to withstand fellow Trojan Sandeno's surge to secure her first spot on the 2004 team.

For Sandeno, the relay is her third event in which she's qualified to swim at the Games in Greece after taking second in the 400m IM and winning the 400m free.

But she's looking to add more.

Not more than 20 minutes after swimming the 200m free, Sandeno was back in the water to race in the semifinals of the 200m fly, an event in which she competed in at the 2000 Olympics.

Sandeno, swimming in the second heat, qualified for the finals with a 2:11.71, the fifth-fastest time of the semifinals, well off her best time but still strong considering she got off to a bad start off the blocks and it was her third swim of the day. She will race in the finals of the 200m fly on Sunday well rested because she has no prelim swims in the morning.

Former USC grad Gabriel Woodward took sixth in the semifinals of the 100m free in 49.67, earning a spot in Sunday's final. Like in the 200m free, the top four finishers are guaranteed to make the team and depending on swimmers who win more than one race, the fifth- or sixth-place finisher could also make the squad. The field is loaded with American record holder Jason Lezak as the top qualifier and other powerhouses like Gary Hall, Ian Crocker, Neil Walker and Nate Dusing looming in the heat.

Former Trojan All-American John Abercrombie swam in the finals of the 200m fly, taking fifth in 1:58.48. USC volunteer assistant coach Kellan O'Connor was seventh in 1:58.97. Abercrombie was third after 150 meters, but fell off the pace in the final 50 meters.

Full results are available at

USC has sent more athletes to the Olympic Games than any other university. From 1904 to 2000, there have been 340 athletes who attended USC before, during or after their Olympic appearance. They have collected 217 medals (104 gold, 59 silver and 54 bronze), including at least one gold medal in every summer Olympics since 1912.

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