OMAHA, Neb. — When Potomac Falls alum Matt McLean saw that he had earned a likely Olympic spot on Team USA’s 800-meter freestyle relay, Olympic gold was not the first thing that came to his mind.
“The first thing I thought of was Fran,” said McLean.
McLean dedicated his swim to deceased U-Va. teammate and friend Fran Crippen, who passed away in 2010 while competing in the 10K Open Water World Cup.
Potomac Falls’s Matt McLean finished fifth in the 200 freestyle final, earning a spot on Team USA’s 800-meter freestyle relay in London. His impressive swim came on the heels of failing to qualify in the 400 freestyle on the first day of trials — his signature event.
And what a swim it was. From the prelims to the final heat of the 200 freestyle, McLean displayed incredible mental toughness after failing to qualify for finals in his signature event, the 400 freestyle, on the first day of Trails. “I just had to completely put the 400 out of my head, completely put watching finals out of my head,” McLean said. “I knew I had to get back in the zone and move forward.”
McLean may now rest easily, having secured a spot on perhaps the United States’ strongest Olympic relay.
“It’s almost hard to wrap your mind around it, to be in such a competitive event with other great athletes,” said McLean. “I’m really looking forward to do what I can to help Team USA out.”
In other swims, Curl-Burke’s Ellyn Baumgardner (Arizona) placed an impressive fourth in the women’s 100 breaststroke, improving on her preliminary time by nearly a half-second. In addition, All-Met Swimmer of the Year Jack Conger (Good Counsel, Rockville Montgomery Swim Club) placed eighth in his first career Olympic Trials final.
In the semifinal heats, Bishop O’Connell alum Michael Flach (South Carolina) advanced in the men’s 200 butterfly. Flach red-shirted this year at South Carolina in order to focus on Olympic Trials. The move appears to be paying dividends as he holds the sixth seed going into Thursday’s finals.