US Olympic Trials: Will Gallant, Bobby Finke Pace 800 Free Heats; Wilimovsky Squeaks In

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

19-year-old Will Gallant of Mission Viejo Nadadores swam to a best time in the 800 freestyle heats on Wednesday morning in Omaha with a 7:53.76, lowering his own best time of 7:57.5 to grab lane four in Thursday night’s final. Gallant, who took an Olympic redshirt from Indiana this year (but transferred to NC State) to train in southern California, was one of four swimmers to swim a best time among the top eight qualifiers.

NC State’s Ross Dant, who is seeded third at 7:54.98, lowering his best of 7:56.0, and James Plage (7:56.87) after having never broken 8:00, both raced to best times to reach tomorrow’s final.

Dant finished third in the 400 free final on Sunday night as he has quietly had a strong meet this week in Omaha, and will be in the mix to be the first American swimmer to race the 800 free at the Olympics.

Florida’s Bobby Finke, who came into the meet as the top seed, cruised to an easy looking 7:54.02, which puts him as the second seed for tomorrow night’s final. He was fourth earlier in the meet in the 400 IM and is in line to make his first Olympic team and be the second Florida Gator to Tokyo after Kieran Smith won the 200 and 400 free final. Finke has long been dubbed as the man to take over the mantle as best American swimmer in distance freestyle after tearing apart the record books in the 1650 yards freestyle the last two years at the University of Florida. His 1500 free may be his better event in long course, but the 800 would be a good starting point for him to get on the team.

21-year-old Michael Brinegar, who also trains in southern California at Mission Viejo, is the fourth seed at 7:55.50, and has a chance to be a second generation Olympian, following in the footsteps of his mother Jennifer Hooker, who finished sixth in the 200 freestyle at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

27-year-old Jordan Wilimovsky had a little bit of a scare in the heats, finishing fourth in his heat with a 7:57.11, but his time was fast enough to secure him lane eight for tomorrow’s final. Wilimovsky is already on the Olympic team, securing his spot in the 10K at the 2019 Worlds as he is already on his second team. He raced in Rio in the 1500, finishing fourth, and has been a popular pick to race the inaugural 800 free in Tokyo.

Georgia’s Andrew Abruzzo (7:57.03) and Florida’s Trey Freeman (7:57.07) will race in the 800 final after finishing eighth and sixth respectively in the 400 final on Sunday night.

Results:

  1. Will Gallant, 7:53.76
  2. Bobby Finke, 7:54.02
  3. Ross Dant, 7:54.98
  4. Michael Brinegar, 7:55.50
  5. James Plage, 7:56.87
  6. Andrew Abruzzo, 7:57.03
  7. Trey Freeman, 7:57.07
  8. Jordan Wilimovsky, 7:57.11