By Phillip Whitten
LONG BEACH, Calif., July 10. DANA Kirk took a giant step tonight toward joining her sister, Tara, on the 2004 US Olympic team when she posted the fastest time in the two semifinal heats of the women’s 200 meter butterfly. If she makes the team, Tara and Dana will become the first sisters ever to be members of the same US Olympic swim. team. But first there’s the small matter of tomorrow’s final.
In the first of the two semi heats, Kirk blasted through the first 100 meters in 1:01.09, then came flying home in 2:09.36, easily the fastest time in the semis and just off her lifetime best. Mary Descenza was second in 2:10.93, followed by four 2:11s.
Misty Hyman, the defending Olympic champion and top prelims qualifier, went out hard in the second heat, splitting 28.52 at the 50 and 1:01.21 at the 100. She tried to hold on, but the very fast early pace – she was well under world record pace at the 50 – took its toll. Ahead in her heat for the first 180 meters, she was passed by Kim Vandenberg and Kaitlin Sandeno in the final 20 meters. Still, Hyman qualified sixth in 2:11.79. Later, she reflected on how her experience will help her for the final: “I have to rely on that so I can do it again tomorrow. I will be fresher tomorrow.”
Qualifying third, and improving with every swim, was Whitney Myers in a pr 2:11.24. Vandenberg was fourth (2:11.62) and Sandeno fifth (2:11.71). Sandeno was fifth in this event at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.