By John Lohn
OMAHA, Nebraska, July 3. CAN she qualify for a fourth Olympics? That's the question surrounding Amanda Beard in the 200 breaststroke, and if her preliminary swim is any indication, the veteran will be in the mix when the final is contested tomorrow night. For now, Beard is in good position heading to the semifinals.
Swimming in the first of the three circle-seeded heats, Beard emerged from Lane Three with a time of 2:26.86, good for the third seed in the semifinals. The defending Olympic champion, Beard has spent much of her time since Athens fulfilling sponsorship obligations. However, she's shown up at these Trials looking to Beijing.
"I was completely shocked by that time, because it did not hurt as bad as I was expective it to, and I was not expecting a 26," Beard said. "Cyndi Gallagher told me before my race to race your own race, because I have been feeling really strong."
Rebecca Soni, coming off a disappointing Beijing miss in the 100 breast, demonstrated that she's regrouped by posting the fastest time of the morning. Soni was strong during the early portion of her race and managed the fifth-fastest time of the year with a clocking of 2:24.65. She was followed in second by Keri Hehn, who went 2:25.93.
"I tried to take it easy," Soni said. "but I heard the crowd and knew everyone was behind me. I was actually trying to keep it long and smooth – I was not expecting it to be that fast of a time."
Up-and-coming teenager Caitlin Leverenz, the Pan American champ last year in the event, was fourth after the prelims, following a swim of 2:27.41. Taking the fifth and sixth positions were Elle Weberg (2:28.10) and Megan Jendrick (2:28.42). Seventh went to Laura Sogar (2:28.65) and Ariana Kukors took eighth in 2:29.47.
Completing the field for the semifinals were Jessica Schmitt (2:29.84), Elizabeth Tinnon (2:29.84), Christine Olson (2:29.85), Julie Stupp (2:30.11), Sarah Henry (2:30.35), Micah Lawrence (2:30.64), Elizabeth Smith (2:30.94) and Katy Freeman (2:31.34).
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.