By John Lohn
OMAHA, Nebraska, July 4. TWO years ago, he emerged as the next great 50 freestyler from the United States. Now, Cullen Jones is the American-record holder. Jones scorched the field during the preliminaries of the spash-and-dash, clocking a time of 21.59. The effort broke Gary Hall's domestic standard of 21.76, set at the 2000 Olympic Trials in Indianapolis.
One heat after Jones set his American mark, Ben Wildman-Tobriner, the reigning world champion, produced the second-fastest effort in American history. Closing strong, the Stanford product was timed in 21.68, allowing him to finish just ahead of Hall. The two-time defending Olympic champ, Hall qualified third for the semifinals in 21.89.
"I'll take an American record," Jones said. "I think there's a lot more in the tank. In the 50 free, you have to be perfect. You're never perfect, but you keep trying. I've been practicing taking no breaths."
There was a logjam for the fourth position, as a threesome shared the spot with identical readouts of 22.05. Garrett Weber-Gale was the first to turn in that time and was joined in the group by Jason Lezak and Nathan Adrian, who tied with the time behind Jones in the 14th of 15 preliminary races. Matt Grevers checked in seventh in 22.19.
Qualifying eighth for the semifinals was Nick Brunelli (22.27), who narrowly missed a berth on the 400 free relay a night earlier. The rest of the semifinal field will include Gabe Woodward (22.32), Neil Walker (22.35), Jeff Barrett (22.44), Bryan Lundquist (22.45), Alex Righi (22.45), Scott Goodrich (22.55), Josh Schneider (22.55) and Matt McGinnis (22.56).
Video Footage Removed Due to NBC Restrictions
Go to Swimming World's 2008 Olympics Landing Page for the most comprehensive coverage of the meet on the Internet.