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OMAHA, Nebraska, June 27. BREEJA Larson of Texas A&M has had an incredible year. Having first set an American record in the 100-yard breast at NCAAs, tonight she slayed a giant in the women's 100-meter breast at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Rebecca Soni has been the undisputed best breaststroker in the world for quite some time, but wound up getting clipped by Larson at the wall, 1:05.92 to 1:05.99, in a finish that shocked the crowd in attendance at the CenturyLink Center. Larson's time vaulted her to 12th on the all time list, and blasted her lifetime best of 1:06.52 set during earlier qualifying. Larson, an Aggie who hails from Mesa, Ariz., is a late bloomer who was barely recruited out of high school before landing with Steve Bultman in College Station, and has been a revelation since finding her way in the breaststroke.
It has been a rollercoaster year for Larson. About this time last year, she was diagnosed with malignant thyroid cancer, causing her to skip the 2011 summer nationals as she recovered from chemotherapy. (Larson talks about the diagnosis and recovery in this Morning Swim Show interview.) Then, she went on to set an American, U.S. Open and NCAA record in the 100-yard breast at the 2012 NCAAs with a 57.71.
Soni, however, will have another strong training partner in the event during Trials as she continues her focus on Olympic gold. She finished fourth in the event in 2008, before officially being moved up to third after Jessica Hardy's positive doping test wiped out her victory. Soni will be looking to defend her 200 breast title later in the week, but could not replicate her Trials record of 1:05.82 in semis, which would have won her the title tonight.
Hardy, who is still looking to find a way on the team after losing her Olympic spot in 2008 due to a positive clenbuterol test before having her ban reduced to one year from false contamination, placed third in 1:06.53.
Ellyn Baumgardner (1;07.19), Annie Chandler (1:07.28), Emily McClellan (1:07.41), Micah Lawrence (1:07.67) and Ashley Wanland (1:07.89) posted the rest of the swims in the finale.