As the country prepares for the Rio Olympics later this summer, an unprecedented delegation from Penn is in currently trying to fight for places on the United States’ swimming roster.
14 Quakers flew to Omaha, Neb. earlier this week to compete at the U.S. Swimming & Diving Olympic Trials, and several of them entered the trials with a realistic shot at qualifying for a trip to Rio de Janeiro.
Some of the Red and Blue have already raced, with some still to go, and updates will come along with their races.
One of the most likely to qualify for Rio of these athletes was 2012 graduate and current assistant swimming coach Brendan McHugh. The breaststroke specialist was seeded sixth in the 100m breast, having previously won the U.S. Championship in 2014 in the stroke’s 50m variant.
McHugh had a decent race in the prelims on Monday, finishing seventh with a time of 1:00.46, good enough to take him to the semifinals. In the semis, however, McHugh finished ninth, and he needed to take eighth or better to advance to the final round and potentially qualify for Rio.
Two other Quakers raced in the prelims of the 100m breast, but they didn’t manage to fair as well as McHugh. Rising seniors Wes Thomas and Cole Hurwitz paced 90th and T-95th, respectively, while now-graduate Kyle Yu finished 115th — not good enough for a berth to the semis, but still respectable in a highly competitive national field.
Also competing on Monday were current Penn students Alex Peterson, Grant Proctor and Mark Andrew. The rising respective junior, senior and sophomore all swam in the 400 IM alongside the greats of American swimming, including 11-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte. Peterson finished 72nd in the prelims, while Proctor took 82nd place, but the real highlight of the trio came from the underclassman Andrew, who finished 32nd, just six seconds outside of a semifinal berth.
The results from Monday didn’t flatter the Quakers, but McHugh had another shot at national glory in the 200m breaststroke, which took place on Wednesday. In the preliminary round, the 2012 graduate placed 10th, good enough for a spot in the semifinal.
Also racing in the prelims for the 200 breast were Thomas and rising junior CJ Schaffer. Thomas came in 33rd — remarkably better than his 90th-place finish in the 100 breast — while Schaffer finished close behind him in 48th. Neither made the semis, but were there to watch McHugh have another shot at making the finals.
With just a half second to spare, McHugh managed to make the finals for the 200 breast on Wednesday night, finishing in eighth, the last spot available. The final for the event will take place Thursday night.
The last Quaker compete before print time at the Olympic Trials in Omaha is rising sophomore Nancy Hu. The 200m butterfly specialist — and current Penn record holder in the event — raced Wednesday in a strong field, ultimately finishing 77th.
A host of other swimmers from Penn will be racing over the weekend, from Thursday through Saturday, though one man could potentially still be competing on Sunday if his prelims go well enough.
That man is, of course, star swimmer Chris Swanson ‘16, who is the current NCAA champion in the 1650-yard freestyle. He will seek qualification for the finals in the 1500m free when he races in the prelims on Saturday.
With McHugh unable to stamp his ticket to Rio in one of his events, and his fate in the other still uncertain, he leaves Swanson the most likely contender in the pool for a University of Pennsylvania delegation to Brazil this August.
But several other Quakers will still do their best to climb up the national rankings with strong showings this weekend, including 50m free powerhouses Eric Schultz ‘16 and rising senior Rochelle Dong.
Full results will come over the weekend once all 14 Quaker delegates have competed in all the possible events.
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