By John Lohn
LONG BEACH, July 7. In the third prelim of the morning, Klete Keller notched the fastest time, as he touched the wall first in the final heat, easily the most competitive of the session. A 2000 Olympian, Keller went 3:49.04, as he held off Larsen Jensen (3:49.57) and Peter Vanderkaay (3:49.67).
Last month, Keller went a 3:47 in this same pool, while placing second to Ian Thorpe at the Janet Evans Invitational. Obviously, that effort demonstrated Keller's readiness for a monster swim at these Trials. Although the task will prove difficult, Keller could dip under Michael Phelps' American record of 3:46.73.
The second Athens berth should come down to a battle between Jensen, Vanderkaay and veteran Chad Carvin, who qualified fourth for the final in 3:51.83. Fran Crippen snagged the fifth slot in 3:53.36 and will be joined in the final by Justin Mortimer (3:54.68), Tyler DeBerry (3:55.06) and Ben Jones (3:55.08).
PREDICTION: Keller takes the 400 free comfortably, with Vanderkaay earning his first Olympic berth just ahead of Jensen, a favorite to qualify for the Games in the 1,500 free.