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OMAHA, Nebraska, June 26. REBECCA Soni might be the best breaststroker on the planet, but several of the U.S. swimmers in attendance aren't going to make it easy for her at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.
This morning, Texas A&M's Breeja Larson demolished her lifetime best of 1:08.08 with a scorching time of 1:06.52 out of the first circle seeded heat. That swim eclipsed both the Trials record and the Trials textile best. Soni had held the overall Trials standard with a 1:06.87 in semis of the event in 2008, while Megan Quann, now Jendrick, had the top textile swim with a 1:07.12 back in 2000. Larson, at her first Olympic Trials, is definitely a late bloomer having just set an American record at the NCAA Championships in March in short course yard competition. With the swim, Larson moved to third in the world this year behind Soni (1:05.85) and Jessica Hardy (1:06.12).
Soni, however, returned fire in the final heat with, for her, was a reserved race at 1:06.33. She has the potential to go much faster in semis and in finals, but will definitely have some competition to fight through before earning her first 100 breast Trials crown to add to her 200 breast victory from 2008.
Hardy seemed to have easy speed in her heat, the second of the circle seeds, with a 1:07.25 as she cruised throughout race. She initially won this race in 2008 with a 1:06.87, and would have been the defending champion, but tested positive for clenbuterol leading to an eventual one-year ban and losing her swims from Trials as well as the Olympic berth they entailed.
J-Hawk's Emily McClellan gave the crowd an underdog to root for against Soni in the final heat, striking out to a lead at the 50 meter mark with a 31.17 split, before grabbing the fourth seed with a 1:07.45 to better her 1:08.43 lifetime best in her first swim at an Olympic Trials. Ellyn Baumgardner (1:07.72) and Ashley Wanland (1:08.07) placed fifth and sixth.
Two big names completed the top eight as Olympic veteran Amanda Beard (1:08.21) and newly-engaged Annie Chandler (1:08.23) each earn favorable seeds heading into semis. Beard, a two-time Olympic gold medalist is looking for her fifth Olympic appearance after competing in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 previously.
Rebecca Soni — 1:06.33
Breeja Larson — 1:06.52 (lifetime best)
Jessica Hardy — 1:07.25
Emily McClellan — 1:07.45 (lifetime best)
Ellyn Baumgardner — 1:07.72 (lifetime best)
Ashley Wanland — 1:08.07
Amanda Beard — 1:08.21
Annie Chandler — 1:08.23
Micah Lawrence — 1:08.36
Michelle McKeehan — 1:08.41 (lifetime best)
Annie Zhu — 1:09.07
Laura Sogar — 1:09.11
Ariana Kukors — 1:09.16
Andrea Kropp — 1:09.18 (lifetime best)
Katy Freeman — 1:09.25
Sarah Haase — 1:09.39 (lifetime best)