By John Lohn
OMAHA, Nebraska, June 30. TRYING to sort out the Beijing contenders in the women's 100 breaststroke isn't a difficult task to handle. Several familiar names immediately jump to the forefront and those are the athletes who delivered some early statements during the morning preliminary session.
American-record holder Jessica Hardy, who has also shown superb sprinting ability this year, captured the top seed for the semifinals by winning the final heat of the prelims. Hardy, who has a best effort of 1:06.20, produced a meet-record time of 1:06.85, just edging the 1:06.90 that Rebecca Soni posted in the first of the circle-seeded heats.
Soni, who enjoyed a breakout year in 2007, is a threat to make the United States Olympic Team in both breaststroke events. While she's better known for her 200 exploits, her speed is obviously on display. Taking the third spot in the morning was 2000 Olympic champ Megan Jendrick, who notched a time of 1:07.06 and gave Soni a battle to the wall. Jendrick had a strong 2007 in which she shared the silver medal in the 200 breast at the World Championships.
Tara Kirk, a veteran of the international stage, was fourth in 1:07.86 and was followed by Annie Chandler (1:08.48), Elle Weberg (1:08.74), Elizabeth Tinnon (1:08.93) and Jessica Botzum (1:09.07). Also reaching the semifinals were Kasey Carlson (1:09.12), Keri Hehn (1:09.14), Amanda Beard (1:09.29), Lindsay Payne (1:09.35), Corrie Clark (1:09.56), Laura Sogar (1:09.67), Michelle McKeehan (1:09.67) and Ariana Kukors (1:09.75).
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.