U.S. Olympic Trials: Erik Vendt Breaks 15 Minutes To Lead 1500 Free Prelims

By John Lohn

OMAHA, Nebraska, July 5. WHEN they met on the first day of the meet, they delivered a sensational battle, one that wasn't decided until the finish. It looks like Larsen Jensen, Erik Vendt and Peter Vanderkaay are ready to produce a sequel. The trio led qualifying in the 1500 freestyle and will grind it out tomorrow for the two berths to Beijing.

In the 400 freestyle, Jensen took top honors, with Vanderkaay and Vendt following. Heading into the 1500 final, Vendt will be the man to beat, at least according to the seeds. Racing in the last of 10 heats, Vendt easily defeated his competition, registering a stellar performance of 14:50.24, good for a meet record. It was the only effort under 15 minutes. Chad LaTourette, next to Vendt, notched the second seed in 15:02.78.

Vanderkaay was the third-fastest qualifier for the championship final, going a comfortable 15:06.24 to win his heat by more than 14 seconds. Jensen, meanwhile, was the winner of his heat in 15:11.99 and will be fourth heading into the final. Jensen is the reigning Olympic silver medalist and holds the American record of 14:45.29, the swim that handed him that medal in Athens.

The field for the final will be rounded out by Tom Koucheravy (15:16.68), Kyle Young (15:20.99), Robert Margalis (15:21.05) and Joe Kinderwater (15:22.45).

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