U.S. Olympic Trials: Natalie Hinds & Olivia Smoliga Share Top Seed in 100 Freestyle; Olympic Champ Simone Manuel Out

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U.S. Olympic Trials: Natalie Hinds & Olivia Smoliga Share Top Seed in 100 Freestyle; Olympic Champ Simone Manuel Out

There was a ho-hum vibe in the air after the morning preliminaries of the women’s 100-meter freestyle at the United States Olympic Trials in Omaha. Only Abbey Weitzeil produced a time under the 54-second barrier, not exactly a comforting feel on the heels of Australia flourishing at its Trials with a quartet of sub-53 markers.

The night session was better for the Americans, but also featured a major development.

Athens Bulldogs training partners Natalie Hinds and Olivia Smoliga, who produced matching personal-best marks of 53.55, advanced as the joint top seeds for the final. Both women dropped considerable time from their prelim performances to put themselves in position for an Olympic berth, whether in the 100 free or as a member of the United States’ 400 freestyle relay.

“It’s a good swim,” Hinds said. “Obviously, I’m really happy with that. I’ve been trying to focus on myself and my own race. There’s a lot of big names here, and there can be a lot of pressure. (A best time) was crazy. I was really just trying to get my hand on the wall first or second, and be sure to make it to the finals. But now I know I can go that time.”

The final, though, will not include reigning Olympic co-champion Simone Manuel, as she finished ninth in the semifinals with a time of 54.17. The effort left Manuel, the two-time defending world champion and Team USA stalwart, as the first alternate for the final. Although Manuel dropped .30 from the prelims to the semifinals, she lacked the pop that has been typical of her for the past five years. During a press conference after the session was over, Manuel noted that she took three weeks away from training in the spring while dealing with a diagnosis of “overtraining syndrome.”

Claiming the third seed for the final was Weitzeil, who is seeking a return trip to the Olympic Games. Weitzeil was timed in 53.66, with Catie Deloof following in 53.77. Weitzeil was quicker in the morning, behind a swim of 53.52 and figures to be a major factor in the final. Rounding out the field for the final were Linnea Mack (54.03), Allison Schmitt (54.08), Kate Douglass (54.14) and Erika Brown (54.15).

Coming off a third-place finish in the 100 backstroke, Smoliga is seeking her second straight Olympic trip, as she contested the 100 back in Rio. If she heads to Tokyo, it will be in a different stroke.

“It was really hard,” Smoliga said of her miss in the 100 backstroke. “Everything in your mind is questioning everything. It is hard to get through these eight-day meets. You have to keep pushing and try to stay in the present. Leading into Trials, I thought (the 100 freestyle) would be a fun event and I was excited to see my progression from 2016. I am glad I was able to turn things around this way.”

Results:

1. Natalie Hinds, 53.55
1. Olivia Smoliga, 53.55
3. Abbey Weitzeil, 53.66
4. Catie Deloof, 53.77
5. Linnea Mack, 54.03
6. Allison Schmitt, 54.08
7. Kate Douglass, 54.14
8. Erika Brown, 54.15