By James Kelley
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
The current Wildcats at the U.S. swimming and track Olympics trials came close to earning trips to Athens, but a couple former Wildcats were the first to earn berths, most notably UA student Amanda Beard.
Beard put an exclamation point on her U.S. Olympic Trials, winning the 200-meter breaststroke by nearly five seconds and setting a world record, taking back the mark she earned at the World Championships last summer.
On Friday, Beard's world of 2:22.99, which she held with China's Hui Qi, was broken by Leisel Jones of Australia by .03 seconds.
Beard smashed the three-day old record by more than half of a second.
"Now I'm not tied," Beard said to the Associated Press. "It's fun to actually break it."
Junior Erin Seiper finished seventh in the race and ninth in the 100 breast.
Beard left the Wildcats after two years for the pros but remained in school and head UA swimming coach Frank Busch remained her coach.
Busch may also be named a US coach after the trials.
Current UA juniors Lyndon Ferns, for South Africa and Simon Burnett, Great Britain, have qualified for the Olympics as well.
Beard qualified for the Olympics in her other two events, winning the 100 breast and finishing second in the 200 individual medley.
In the 100 breast stroke, Jessica Wagner, whose eligibility just ended at the UA, finished eighth.
Sophomore-to-be Whitney Myers has had a breakout trial, swimming career bests in a few events and finishing just one spot away from the Olympics in the 200-meter butterfly.
Myers finished seventh in the 200 IM and ninth in the 100 fly.
Senior Emily Mason, who won the 400-meter freestyle NCAA title, finished 16th in it at the trials, 15th in the 200 free and seventh in her 400 IM heat but didn't advance to the finals.
In track, junior Sharifa Jones advanced to the finals in the long jump.
Among her competitors for the three Olympic berths is former Wildcat Brianna Glenn.
In her first Olympic trials, sophomore Rachel Varner finished 11th.
Sophomore Angel Perkins, who was at the 2000 trials as well, advanced to the semifinals in the 400.
Former Wildcat Abdi Abdirahman finished second in the 10,000 meters, earning a spot in the games.
Abdirahman finished just behind former UCLA rival Meb Keflezighi.
"My race was OK, about an eight out of 10," Abdirahman said to usatf.org.
"Meb ran a great race. He's in the best shape of his life. Coming into this race I knew I was going to have my hands full. I tried to hang around as long as I could."
Yuliana Perez, who signed a national letter of intent to jump for Arizona and went to school in fall 2003 before going pro, finished sixth in the triple jump but still may go to Athens.
Only Perez and Tiombe Hurd, who set an American record with her winning jump, have achieved the Olympic "A" qualifying standard of 14.20 meters and if the second and third place finishers can't achieve that before the games, Perez will go.
The track trials run until Sunday and resume on Thursday.
In other swimming events, senior Jessica Hayes finished 10th in the 200-meter backstroke and 11th in the 100 back.
Incoming freshman Lacey Nymeyer finished 10th in the 50 free and 16th in the 800- and 100-meter freestyle, and Tyler DeBerry finished eighth in the 400 free and 17th in 1500 free.
TV coverage will continue on the NBC family of networks. On Thursday, at 7 p.m. and Friday night, at 8, USA will have live track coverage.
On Saturday at 2 p.m. and on Sunday at 4 p.m., NBC will have live track coverage. On Sunday, NBC will show three hours of swimming starting at 10 a.m.