The 400 IM was a teeth-clenching three-man battle from start to finish, with top-qualifier Tom Wilkens fading to third on the free leg and young star Erik Vendt surging at the end for a tight finish with defending Olympic champion Tom Dolan. The three were ahead of world record pace through the 300, with Dolan's winning 4:13.72 slightly off his 4:12.30 record from 1994.
Dolan's win was a redemption after struggling with his health and injuries, while Vendt's swim was an inspiring surprise. Vendt, 19 and representing the Squids, was slightly behind after the back and inched up on the breast to touch half a second ahead of Dolan and half a second behind Wilkens at the 300 mark. Then the order reversed on the free, with Dolan moving into first, Vendt taking second in 4:13.89 and Wilkens, 24, dropping back to take third in 4:15.69.
Dolan, who has long suffered from severe asthma, had been sick for two weeks before the Trials. He underwent knee surgery last spring.
"I like to do it the hard way," said Dolan, 24 and representing Curl-Burke. "This was a long time coming. That's the most emotion I've had in a swim in a long time. It's been a long year and a half. I'm going to look forward to just getting back in and working hard for five weeks and going to Sydney healthy."
Kevin Clements of Industry Hills was fourth in 4:20.26, and Robert Margalis was fifth in 4:21.05. Beau Wiebel was sixth in 4:24.09, and Eric Donnelly was seventh in 4:26.84. Greg Reeves, who had dropped eight seconds to qualify for finals from an early heat, was eighth in 4:32.00.