By John Lohn
OMAHA, Nebraska, June 30. THEY had a great battle at last year's Summer Nationals and another appears to be on the way tonight. It'll be Katie Hoff vs. Katie Ziegler in the 400 freestyle, and the world record is in jeopardy. More, there's a chance we'll see the first woman break the four-minute mark, a feat difficult to fathom.
The American-record holder in the event, Hoff cruised through the early portion of her race, then picked up the pace during the last half and set a meet record of 4:05.61. Hoff trailed rising star Allison Schmitt for the majority of the prelim heat and narrowly edged her at the wall, as Schmitt produced a time of 4:05.72.
Ziegler, the world-record holder in the 1500 free and the woman who has carried the American distance torch brightest since Janet Evans, is one race from qualifying for her first Olympic Team. Ziegler came onto the international scene in 2005 and has been building toward this Beijing berth ever since. Ziegler heads into the final in the third position, thanks to a time of 4:06.04.
Caroline Burckle, swimming in the first of the circle-seeded heats, had a career-best performance of 4:06.74 and grabbed the fourth slot. The field for the final is completed by Alyssa Anderson (4:09.49), Kelsey Ditto (4:09.65), Maggie Bird (4:09.73) and Jessica Rodriquez (4:12.25).
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.