|By John Lohn
OMAHA, Nebraska, July 3. LIKELY motivated by her Olympic-berth miss in the 100 breaststroke, where she was favored to qualify for Beijing, Rebecca Soni sent a statement in the semifinals of the 200 breaststroke. Producing a time of 2:23.05, Soni easily earned the top seed for tomorrow's championship final.
Soni was the only swimmer in the semifinals to split under 1:10 for the first 100 and she continually got stronger during the last half of the race. She heads into the championship heat as the distinct favorite to lead the U.S. in Beijing. However, she'll have a veteran and well-known name pushing her to the wall.
"I am a 200 swimmer," Soni said. "The 100 is still in the making. Tomorrow, I'm just going to relax. It's really hard to hold back because I just want to go. Tomorrow, a repeat of this would be great."
Three-time Olympian and defending champion Amanda Beard qualified second for the final, going 2:25.43. Although she has split her time between training and handling sponsorship duties and non-pool activities, Beard is a supreme talent and clearly in position to advance to a fourth Olympics. She was timed in 2:25.43.
"I'm having a blast," Beard said. "My attitude toward Trials is that I just don't care. I have things planned. If I make the team, it's just an added bonus. When it comes down to it, I just need to race."
The rest of the field for the final will include Keri Hehn (2:26.51) as the third seed and Megan Jendrick (2:26.94) as the fourth seed. Jendrick is already qualified in the 100 breast. Fifth in the semifinals went to Caitlin Leverenz (2:27.15) and sixth through eighth went to Ariana Kukors (2:27.26), Laura Sogar (2:27.90) and Elle Weberg (2:28.08).
Video Footage Removed Due to NBC Restrictions
Go to Swimming World's 2008 Olympics Landing Page for the most comprehensive coverage of the meet on the Internet.
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Photo By: Peter H. Bick