Despite improvements, local swimmers fall short of Olympic swimming berth
When Megan Kingsley headed to Omaha, Neb., for the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials this week, she knew the odds were against her.
A rising junior at Wando High School, the 16-year-old would be racing alongside swimmers years her senior.
“I just want to do my best and swim my best time,” she said in the days leading up to her races.
She did, propelling herself into the semifinals in the 200 meter butterfly and into the upper echelon of the sport.
In a semifinal race Thursday night, her time of 2 minutes 11.73 seconds, landed her in 11th place, 0.73 seconds short of the last qualifying spot.
But she was among the youngest swimmers in that race, her coach Doug Fetchen noted, and she was 0.10 seconds shy of matching the existing state record in that race for her age group.
The only competitor younger, Becca Mann of Florida, placed 10th and swam a quarter-second faster. That, Fetchen said, makes her the nation’s second-fastest swimmer in that race under 19.
It was also the 19th-fastest 200 butterfly showing a 16-year-old has ever recorded in the United States, Fetchen said, and the biggest improvement any swimmer in that race logged.
Kingsley could not be reached for comment Friday.
Kingsley was one of three competitors that traveled to Omaha from the Mount Pleasant Swim Club, as she was joined by brothers Jon and Zach Lierley.
The trio wrapped up their week with Zach Lierley’s 200 backstroke and 200 IM races, and while neither advanced into the semifinals, both set personal records.
He finished the medley race in 2:05.61, which was enough for 56th place, up from 124th, and a new record among S.C. 17- and 18-year-olds.
The jump mirrored his improvement in the 200 backstroke, where he swam 2:02.97 to finish 31st, a jump of 30 spots compared to his previous standing.
He and Kingsley also distinguished themselves as being among the 18 percent of competitors across all races who swam their best times at the trials.
Doing so was especially difficult for Zach Lierley, another Wando senior who had to first overcome a bout of mononucleiosis about a month before leaving for Omaha. That dealt him a big setback, he said, after a year of training. But he fed off the atmosphere in Omaha.
“You always set your goal to be here,” he said. “Once you’re actually here, just the atmosphere is, the first day, a bit overwhelming, but you settle down, and it’s actually very motivating.
“The energy and the crowd and the entire situation is probably what helped me best.”
And, Fetchen said, their improvements were significant. They shaved seconds off their time in a sport with records set by tenths and hundredths.
“It might not seem like a lot, but on this level, the difference between first and 50th is so close that if you drop just a second off your time, you shoot up (in the rankings).”
Those razor-thin margins work both ways, though, and this time, they’ve denied Kingsley and the Lierleys a trip to the London games.
Reach Thad Moore at 958-7360.