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By John Lohn
OMAHA, Nebraska, June 29. IF you see a man skipping out of the CenturyLink Center, performing cartwheels in the parking lot and hugging strangers, there's a good chance it is Texas A&M coach Steve Bultman. Simply put, the guy has guided his athletes to a spectacular week, already sending two women to next month's Olympic Games in London.
Over the past few years, Texas A&M has been one of the fastest rising programs in the country on the female side, even supplanting the University of Texas for Lonestar State supremacy. The momentum Bultman has built has been felt at the NCAA Championships, and now it is being felt on a much bigger stage.
Two days after Breeja Larson delivered a huge upset in the 100 breaststroke, Cammile Adams made it a pair of Aggies on the United States Olympic squad when she prevailed in the 200 butterfly. Like Larson, who charged down the final lap, Adams was dominant over the final 50 meters and bested the field with a time of 2:06.52.
It's always a positive to see some different flavor on the Olympic Team, and having Texas A&M supply a pair of athletes provides that change. More important, it's only going to pay dividends for the Aggies in the coming years. At last year's NCAA Champs, Texas A&M earned sixth place, knocking on the door of a top-five finish. A year earlier, Texas A&M was 10th.
“They say you're Cloud Nine. Well, I'm on 11 or 12 right now,” Bultman said. “We've told the girls to focus on swimming smart races and not to think about the outcome. And we've tried to keep them loose. That's my job and a big part of it. We just want them to get up there and race.”
**It's been written here before, but it warrants repeating. The United States' chances of capturing an Olympic gold medal in the 400 freestyle relay are slim — at best. Actually, the U.S. might have some difficulty earning the silver or bronze medal, such was the disappointment of the results of the 100 freestyle.
After lackluster preliminaries and semifinals, the championship final was also mediocre, with Nathan Adrian taking first place in 48.10. He was followed by Cullen Jones in 48.46, with Matt Grevers (48.55) and Ricky Berens (48.80) taking the third and fourth positions.
With the Australians boasting a pair of men in the 47-second range, including James Magnussen at 47.10, the Americans aren't even in the same time zone. Meanwhile, France and Russia could put together relay squads that are better than the United States, unless a major change takes place over the next month.
**The future of the backstroke was again on display, with teenagers Ryan Murphy, Jacob Pebley and Jack Conger turning in stellar times and qualifying for the championship final of the 200 backstroke. Murphy's mark of 1:57.39, the third-fastest of the semifinals, wasn't far off Aaron Peirsol's National Age Group record (15-16) of 1:57.03 from 2000.
**The sitting around is almost over for Dara Torres, who made her first appearance at the CenturyLink Center on Thursday and was back at the facility on Friday for a training session. The 45-year-old Torres will try to qualify for her sixth Olympic team when the 50 freestyle begins on Sunday with the preliminaries and semifinal round.
**Question of the Night: Who will win the showdown between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte in the championship final of the 200 individual medley? And, what kind of time will the winner put on the scoreboard?
**The morning marks the return of Katie Ledecky to competition. The 15-year-old from the Curl-Burke Swim Club, who narrowly missed out on an Olympic invitation in the 400 freestyle, is one of the leading candidates to advance to London in the 800 free. The prelims of the longest event on the women's program will follow the men's 50 freestyle, with the championship final scheduled for Sunday night.
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