OMAHA, Neb. – Matt McLean accelerated through the final 50 meters of the penultimate prelim heat of the men’s 400-meter freestyle; a furious flutter kick allowied him to close on leader Ryan Feeley as the swimmers barreled to the wall.
But after McLean touched in second place in a time of 4 minutes, 49.96 seconds, the Potomac Falls and U-Va. alum’s fate was out of his hands. In the final heat, three swimmers bested McLean’s time, knocking down McLean to ninth place and closing the door on an Olympic bid in his signature event.
McLean headlined a group of Washington, D.C.-area Olympic trials swimmers on the first day of competition in Omaha at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.
The former All-Met and Virginia U-Va. alum entered the 400-meter freestyle as the defending national champion and a favorite for an Olympic berth, but missed out on a lane spot in the final heat by seven-hundredths of a second. McLean entered the event with the highest seed — second overall in the 400 free — among local swimmers at this week’s Trials. An unprecedentedly quick set of prelims swims, however, forced McLean out of the top eight, leaving him in a familiar position — McLean also placed ninth in the prelims of the 400 free at the 2008 Olympic Trials. McLean still has an opportunity to punch his ticket to London in the 200 free, the preliminary heats of which will be held today.
In the women’s 100 butterfly, Amanda Kendall, 2009 All-Met Swimmer of the Year, and Megan Lafferty (U-Md.) dropped impressive amounts of time to move up the rankings.
Kendall posted a personal best by .74 seconds to move her up from 27th to 10th, earning herself a berth in the night’s semifinal race. There she finished 13th overall, despite shaving an addition .06 seconds off her time.
Despite not advancing to Tuesday night’s final, it was an optimistic swim for the Fairfax native, who is scheduled to compete in her best event, the women’s 100 freestyle, later this week.
Megan Lafferty, meanwhile, improved on her personal best by 1.76 seconds, vaulting herself from a 128th-place seed to a 20th-place finish. Both Kendall and Lafferty have committed to swim for the University of Arizona next year.
In other races, Walter Johnson alum Eric Friedland (University of Texas) progressed out of the preliminary heats of the 100 breaststroke in the morning, but finished last in the 16-swimmer semifinal later that night. In the same event, 2000 Olympic medalist and Lake Braddock alum Ed Moses failed to advance past the prelims, finishing 21st. Both Friedland and Moses will compete in the 200 breaststroke later this week.
In his first career Olympic Trials swim, rising Thomas Jefferson sophomore and 2012 All-Met Andrew Seliskar re-broke his local 15-16 year-old age group resident record in the 400 individual medley by 2.7 seconds, winning his heat in the process. At 15-years-old, Seliskar is among the youngest male swimmers competing in Omaha.
Another first-time Trials competitor, 2011 All-Met Chuck Katis (Curl-Burke/Harvard/Langley HS) was relieved to get a strong first Olympic Trials swim under his belt in the 100 breaststroke.
“I just tried to stay calm,” said Katis. “Coach John [Flanagan] just told me to rehearse magic tricks in my mind as I was getting ready, and I think that helped a little bit.”
Katis cut .25 seconds from his personal best, tying Curl-Burke teammate Zach Hayden for 37th place.