Piper likely headed to Olympics

UW swimmer's finish in the 200-meter freestyle could be just enough to qualify

University of Wisconsin senior swimmer Carly Piper is virtually guaranteed of earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic swimming team after placing fifth in the 200-meter freestyle Saturday night at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in a time of 1:59.99.

The top four finishers in the race have been guaranteed berths on the United States' team for the Games in Athens this August. However, the fifth- and sixth-place finishers are more than likely to be picked up to swim on the 800-meter freestyle relay.

If Piper is indeed invited to be a member of the team (official word is expected to come in the next couple of days) she would be the first UW female swimmer to compete at the Summer Olympics.

"I'm really excited and really happy. Anything good, just name it, that's how I feel," Piper said. "I was really looking forward to the race. I knew it would be a tight race, but I knew I just had to go out and swim my race. It's definitely a relief."

Competing in an international setting will be nothing new to the two-time Big Ten Swimmer of the Year, though. One year ago, Piper was a member of the gold-medal winning U.S. 800-meter freestyle relay team at the 2003 Pan American Games.

"It helped me in ways that I got more confidence and to meet a number of different racers in a different environment," Piper said. "I think it also helped show me how to get the job done in a big meet."

One of Piper's teammates on the Pan American Games winning relay, 16-year-old Dana Vollmer, won the 200 freestyle Saturday night in a time of 1:59.20. Piper finished just two tenths of a second behind fourth-place finisher Rhi Jeffrey.

Piper's next and last event at the U.S. Trials will be the 800 freestyle, which takes place on Monday.

Former Badger Bethany Pendleton placed sixth in the 200-meter individual medley final with a time of 2:15.67 and consequently did not make the team. Pendleton does not have any further events. The defending Big Ten champion in the event led the final at its midway point following the backstroke and breaststroke legs, but fell off the pace during the butterfly portion.

On the men's side, recent UW graduate Dale Rogers took 11th in the 100 freestyle prelims with a time of 50.20, which qualified him for the semifinal round. There, he churned out a 50.26 for 13th place but did not make it to the final round.

Matt Marshall was not as fortunate in the 100 freestyle preliminary round, as his 51.81 (29th place) ended his first of three chances to make the U.S. Olympic team. Marshall also will compete in the 100 butterfly and the 50 freestyle next week.

Sunday's events will showcase Adam Mania in the 200 back, Timothy Liebhold in the 200 IM and Amalia Sarnecki in the 200 breast.

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