By John Lohn and Dana Lawrence Lohn
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, July 31. MIDWAY through the 1500 freestyle, Erik Vendt decided he was ready to rock. Turning on the burners, the Club Wolverine star pulled away from the field with what seemed to be relative ease and took top honors in the 30-lap grind with a time of 14:57.01. That mark handed Vendt a meet record, and was his personal best, beating the 14:59.11 he set in this same pool eight (eight!) years ago.
A two-time Olympic silver medalist in the 400 individual medley, Vendt has enjoyed great success since coming out of retirement early last year and joining the crew in Ann Arbor. A little more than a second ahead of Larsen Jensen after 800 meters, Vendt shifted into a higher gear and held a six-plus second lead by the time the swimmers reached the 1,000-meter mark.
"I feel like I just came back yesterday, but it really has been a hard year of training. When I came back [from retirement], I was much more focused than I'd ever been before. I love this pool. And from now to [2008 Olympic Trials in] Omaha, it'll be nothing but training." Vendt's coach at Club Wolverine, Bob Bowman, added more color regarding Vendt: "He's really tough. He loves the challenge … I think he has to break 14:50 to make the Olympic Team, and possibly 14:45 to medal, and with a long enough training period, I think he can do it."
Jensen, the reigning Olympic silver medalist and American-record holder, took second place in 15:13.94. By next year, when the Olympic Trials roll around, expect Jensen to be back to his former self and gearing up for a run at another Olympic medal. Should Vendt and Jensen emerge as the American entries in the metric mile in Beijing, consider the United States in good shape.
The third-place finisher was Chip Peterson, the 19-year-old who has proven himself equally efficient in the open-water discipline and pool swimming. Peterson registered a time of 15:19.49, comfortably ahead of the 15:22.75 of fourth-place finisher Kyle Young. Fifth place was occupied by Tom Koucheravy, timed in 15:25.73.