U.S. Swimming Trials Recap: Coughlin, Silver, Hardy All Qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team

July 7, 2008

Berkeley - Three former California Golden Bear women's swimmers - Natalie Coughlin, Emily Silver and Jessica Hardy - will be representing USA Swimming this summer in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Aug. 9-17 at the Beijing National Aquatic Center. In addition, Cal women's swimming head coach Teri McKeever was selected as an assistant coach to the Olympic squad.

USA Swimming held its Olympic Time Trials June 29-July 6 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb. Twenty-two current, former and incoming women's swimmers from Cal competed with hundreds of top-flight athletes from around the country for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.

Coughlin enters her second straight Olympics on a roll. The 25-year old from Vallejo, Calif. qualified for four events, including the 100-meter backstroke, the 200-meter individual medley, the 100-meter freestyle and the 4x100-meter free relay. On July 1, Coughlin officially punched her ticket to Beijing with a winning time and new world record of 58.97 in the final of the 100 back. The world record in the 100 back actually fell twice in the prelims (June 30) when Hayley McGregory first broke Coughlin's previous world record with a time of 59.15 in heat No. 15, before Coughlin reclaimed the crown two minutes later in the following heat. In setting her world record, Coughlin became the first woman to swim the 100 back in under 59 seconds. She has held the world record in this event since August of 2002, when she became the first woman to break the one-minute barrier.

The following day on July 2, Coughlin qualified for her second event in the 200 IM after a second-place finish of 2:10.32, before claiming second place in the 100 free (53.83) on July 4 to qualify for her third event.

At the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Coughlin became the third American woman to win five medals at one Olympics (the others are Mary Lou Retton and Shannon Miller). She took gold in the 100-meter backstroke and the 4x200-meter freestyle relay, breaking the world record in that event. Coughlin also won silver medals in the 4x100-meter free relay and the 4x100-meter medley relay, and a bronze in the 100-meter free.

Silver, who recently completed her senior year in Berkeley, earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team (4x100m relay) after a fifth-place finish in the 100 free (on July 4) with a time of 54.91. The 22-year old from Bainbridge, Wash. was a member of the U.S. team at the 2007 World University Games, in which she won a gold medal in the 400-free relay and a silver in the 400-medley relay. During the 2007-08 collegiate season, she recorded over 10 individual first-place finishes (in dual meets). She was a member of Cal's 800-yard free relay that won the 2008 Pac-10 title (and set a Pac-10 meet record) in 7:04.13, and she was on the NCAA runner-up 200 free relay (1:27.52, a new school record). Silver set a Cal record in the 50 free at the 2007 NCAA meet (21.99, since broken), and she was the '07 Pac-10 champion in the 100 and 200 free. Voted team MVP as a freshman in 2005, Silver earned a bronze medal in the 400-meter free relay at the World Championships that summer.

Hardy, who attended Cal from 2005-07, will join Silver and Coughlin on the 4x100-meter relay team, as well as compete in the 50 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke. The Long Beach, Calif. native earned an automatic spot on the Olympic Team after finishing in first place of the 100 breast finals with a time of 1:06.87 on July 1, and a second-place finish in the 50 free on Sunday. Hardy won two NCAA titles in the 200-yard breaststroke at Cal, claiming championships in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. Hardy was just a U.S. national team rookie when she set a world record in the 100-meter breaststroke semifinal at the 2005 World Championships. A two-time U.S. champion in the 100-meter breaststroke (2004 and 2005 summer nationals), Hardy currently holds the world records in the short course 50 and 100-meter breaststrokes, both of which she set in the 2008 World Championships.

Regarded as one of the best swimming mentors in the United States, McKeever also served as an assistant coach at the 2004 Games in Athens. The 16th-year head coach at Cal, McKeever was also the first woman to be named head coach of the national team at a major international meet (the 2006 Pan Pacific meet in British Columbia). She also served as an assistant coach for the U.S. team during World Championship competition in 2003, 2005 and 2007. Other international coaching duties included assistant roles with the 2001 Goodwill Games and the 2002 Pan Pacific Championships.

McKeever has a strong knack for developing her pupils into Olympians and world champions, including Cal legend Coughlin, who won five medals in Athens in 2004.

Even though they did not secure a spot on the Olympic team, many Cal athletes reached incredible heights at the time trials. Soon to be senior Dana Vollmer swam the fourth-fastest heat time of 58.46 (out of 140 competitors) in the 100-meter butterfly on June 29 to advance to the semifinals, in which she then qualified for the finals with a time of 58.55. The Granbury, Texas native placed fifth in the finals with a time of 58.64.

Vollmer also reached the finals of the 200 free after posting a semifinal qualifying time of 1:59.76 (10th-fastest heat time among 107 competitors). She ended up placing seventh in the finals with a time of 1:58.67. A multiple All-American, Vollmer also advanced to the semifinals of the 100 free.

Vollmer was on the 2004 U.S. Olympic team and won a gold medal as part of the 800-free relay. Her extensive international resume includes winning a gold medal and setting a world record in the 800-free relay and earning a silver medal in the 400-free relay at the 2007 World Championships; earning a gold medal in the 800-free relay at the 2006 Pan Pacific Championships; and winning three gold medals at the 2003 Pan Am Games (200 free, 400-medley relay, 800-free relay). In 2000 at the age of 12, she was the youngest competitor at the U.S. Olympic Trials. As a collegian, Vollmer has won a pair of Pac-10 titles in the 100-yard butterfly, and she broke Mary T. Meagher's 1986 Cal dual record in the 200 fly with a time of 1:53.96 vs. Stanford this past February. She captured the 2007 NCAA title in the 100 fly (50.69) and was runner-up (51.32) in 2008. Vollmer swam her freshman year at Florida, where she earned All-America honors in four relays. Vollmer also recently collected two gold medals (both in the 100m butterfly) in the Toyota Grand Prix Series at Santa Clara (May 17) and Stanford (Apr. 7).

A two-time Pac-10 champion in the 100-yard backstroke, soon to be senior Lauren Rogers reached the finals of the 100-meter back after posting the fourth-fastest heat time of 1:01.01 to advance to the semifinals. Rogers then went on to lower her time to 1:00.76 in the semis to qualify for the finals in which she placed fourth with a mark of 1:00.78. Rogers also appeared in the 200 back and 50 free, but did not qualify for the semifinals in those events.

The school record holder in the 50-yard free, Madison Kennedy, advanced to the semifinals of the 50-meter free with the 12th-fastest heat time of 25.52. She missed out on the finals of the 50 by two-one hundredths of a second with a ninth-place time of 25.39.

Amanda Sims and Tara Thomas used their freshmen success to have a good showing at the trials. Sims and Thomas finished 28th and 34th respectively in the 100-meter fly. Sims had her best performance in the 200 fly when she qualified for the semifinals with the 13th-fastest heat (2:11.93). She placed 12th in the semis with a time of 2:11.05.

A 2007-08 All-American, Alexandra Ellis placed 61st in the 100 breast and 40th in the 200 breast.

Heather White and Courtney Eronemo, who will be juniors at Cal in the fall, finished 58th and 59th respectively in the 400 IM and 28th and 45th respectively in the 200 IM. A senior in the fall, Natalie LaRochelle placed 78th in the 200 IM as well.

Emily Verdin, who will be entering her senior year in Berkeley in the fall, finished 78th in the 100 back, and 66th in the 200 back.

An All-American in 2007 and junior in the fall, Blake Hayter placed 27th in the 400 free, 75th in the 200 free and 44th in the 800 free events. Although not under the title of Cal Aquatics, Sara Sun registered a 50th place finish in the 800 free as well.

Former All-American Erin Reilly also had a strong effort at the trials. She qualified for the semifinals of the 100 fly with a time of 59.34 and swam a semifinal time of 59.43. Reilly also advanced to the semifinals of the 200 free.

An NCAA Champion in 2004, Ashley Chandler found her way back to the trials to compete in the 400 (58th), 200 (70th) and 100 free (47th) events.

Former All-American Rachel Ridgeway finished 97th in the 100 fly, 81st in the 200 fly and 58th in the 200 IM.

Cal's class of 2012 also competed at the trials, including Kirstyn Colonias (71st in the 100 breast, 44th in the 200 breast); Ursula Dailey (56th in the 100 fly); Shelley Harper (49th in the 800 free) and Liv Jensen (17th in the 50 free and 40th in the 100 free).

The Bears already have four current, former or incoming swimmers already in the Olympics representing their respective countries -- Lauren Boyle (New Zealand); Hannah Wilson (Hong Kong), Sherry Tsai (Hong Kong); and Sara Isakovic (Slovenia).

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