OMAHA, NEB. — Megan Kingsley picked the right place and time to swim the best races of her life.
The 16-year-old rising junior at Wando High School and Mount Pleasant Swim Club member arrived this week at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials with the understanding that simply qualifying for the trials was a terrific accomplishment.
Thursday, she took it a step further.
She entered the 200-meter butterfly competition Thursday with the nation’s 53rd-fastest qualifying time of 2:14.42. But in swimming what her MPSC coach, Doug Fetchen, called “the race of her life,” Kingsley cut nearly three seconds in the preliminaries with a time of 2:11.83, which was the 10th-fastest time and, according to Fetchen, was the biggest time drop in the event.
Kingsley’s performance earned her a spot in the semifinals, which were broadcast live Thursday night on NBC (WCBD-TV).
A top-eight effort would have advanced her to tonight’s final, in which the top two finishers will qualify for the Olympics in London.
Swimming in the first of the two semifinals before more than 13,000 fans, Kingsley finished fourth in 2:11.73, a tenth of a second faster than her preliminary time.
But she finished just three spots out of the final as her time was .73 seconds slower than the No. 8 qualifier.
“Making the semis and getting 11th overall in the nation at the Olympic trials in the 200 fly was the most amazing ever!” Kingley posted on her Facebook page.
“A huge thanks to everyone who cheered for me and watched me!”
Meanwhile, after a couple of epic duels with his biggest rival, Michael Phelps made this one look easy.
Phelps stayed on course to swim eight events at the London Games, pulling away for a dominating win in the 200-meter butterfly.
Phelps has locked up three individual events for London and he’s got two more to go in Omaha. Combined with a likely spot on all three relays, the 26-year-old from Baltimore — already the winningest Olympian ever — would have a chance to duplicate his record from the Beijing Games if he doesn’t stumble over the next three days.
“The last 25 meters are pretty painful,” Phelps said. “I just wanted to get to the wall and secure another spot on the team.”
Phelps touched in 1:53.65. The real race was for second place — and another spot on the Olympic team. Tyler Clary, who lost out to Phelps in the 400 individual medley, rallied from behind for a time of 1:55.12, edging Bobby Bollier’s touch of 1:55.79.
Phelps isn’t the only one building a busy Olympic schedule. His training partner, Allison Schmitt, was equally dominating in the 200 free. She broke her own American record with a time of 1:54.40, the best in the world this year. Already the winner in the 400 free, she eclipsed the national record set in the 2009 world championships at Rome.
Seventeen-year-old Missy Franklin locked up another Olympic race, claiming the second 200 spot in 1:56.79. She already won the 100 backstroke.
Dana Vollmer and Lauren Perdue finished third and fourth, assuring themselves of being in the pool for the 800 free relay.
Caitlin Leverenz became a first-time Olympian with a victory in the 200 individual medley in 2:10.22. Ariana Kukors took the other spot.
Also Thursday, Clark Burckle was top qualifier in the 200 breaststroke semifinals. Cammile Adams was fastest in the women’s 200 fly semifinals.