|By John Lohn
OMAHA, Nebraska, July 5. WITH Dara Torres indicating that she was going to take it easy during the preliminaries of the 50 freestyle, the door was open for someone to make some early noise. Lara Jackson stepped through that opening in a big way, setting an American record of 24.50 in the last of 12 heats.
Jackson was off the blocks like a lightning bolt, her reaction time reading .60. Swimming next to Torres, who was coming off a victory in the 100 freestyle, Jackson stayed clearly ahead and touched in a time that erased Torres' domestic standard. The former American record was 24.53, set at last year's National Championships in Indianapolis.
"I'm really in shock right now," Jackson said. "My previous best was 25.1. I was expecting to go 24 because we've been training really hard and I've been really on in practice, but nothing like that. I want to do that in finals and make the team."
Torres, who figures to pick up the tempo in this evening's semifinals, qualified in the No. 3 position with a performance of 24.72. With her win in the 100 freestyle, the 41-year-old nailed down her fifth Olympic berth, complementing appearances in 1984, 1988, 1992 and 2000. She owns nine Olympic medals.
The second seed for the semifinals was secured by Jessica Hardy, who has qualified for Beijing in the 100 breaststroke and as a member of the 400 freestyle relay. Hardy won the 10th heat in 24.63, tied for the third-fastest time in American history. Fourth went to Lacey Nymeyer (25.01) and Kara Lynn Joyce was fifth in 25.04. The top eight also included Kara Denby (25.31), Brooke Bishop (25.40) and Christine Magnuson (25.41).
Also reaching the semifinals were Michele King (25.44), Anne Marie Botek (25.46), Sara Smith (25.49), Anne Marie May (25.52), Madison Kennedy (25.52), Emily Silver (25.57), Caitlin Andrew (25.61) and Stephanie Napier (25.62).
Notably, Grace Carlson of Lake Oswego Swim Club became the youngest competitor to ever swim in the U.S. Olympic Trials as the 12-year-old took 85th with a time of 26.72.
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.