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OMAHA, Nebraska, July 1. WHILE this evening features a finals field averaging right around 18 years of age, the women's 800 free at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials in Long Beach, Calif., proved to be a few veterans with a bunch of youngster nipping at their heels. In the closest women's 800 free finals finish in Trials history, Lake Erie's Diana Munz edged USC's Kalyn Keller, 8:26.06 to 8:26.33, at the wall with both earning Olympic bids to Athens.
The race featured 2000 Olympic gold and silver medalists Brooke Bennett and Munz in their last chance to make the 2004 Olympic squad, with Bennett being the two-time defending Olympic gold medalist at the time. The finale, however, featured a bunch of other swimmers nipping at their heels, including Keller and Kaitlin Sandeno. Additionally, tonight's top-seeded swimmer Kate Ziegler, competed in the finale at just 16-years-old, including striking out to a lead at the 100 with a 1:00.89.
Bennett and Munz turned on the heat at the 200, turning first and second with Keller still at their hips. Bennett extended her lead to more than half-a-second over Munz at the 300-meter mark, while holding onto her advantage at the 400-meter turn, splitting 4:12.09. By the halfway mark, a surging Keller overtook Munz to move into second.
Heading into the 500-meter mark, Keller and Munz began out-splitting Bennett by more than a second with Keller striking out to a lead at the 600-meter mark over Munz as Bennett faded to third. Munz then countered Keller, taking the lead at the 650 with Bennett continuing to falter. Throughout the rest of the race, Munz and Keller kept pushing ahead of Bennett with Munz clipping Keller at the wall for the second and third-fastest times of the year at that point. Bennett placed third in 8:29.39, with Ziegler taking fourth in 8:30.92.