Current Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2013 23:08:59 -0400
With the Olympics on the horizon, Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Dara Torres have once again become household names.
Alongside them last week at the nationally-televised Olympic trials in Omaha were the names of more than 49 Tar Heel swimmers of the past, present and future.
Of those, North Carolina swimming coach Rich DeSelm said that rising senior Tom Luchsinger, rising junior Stephanie Peacock and 2011 graduate Tyler Harris stood as UNC’s three most solid chances at an Olympic berth.
“The most gratifying thing is that so many of our swimmers came here and performed at the biggest meet we have in the U.S., and we had a lot of best times,” DeSelm said. “It’s just really gratifying to see our people come here to compete and improve.”
Harris qualified for the finals in the 200-meter individual medley events and placed sixth. Only the top two finishers in each event make the team.
Peacock, coming off an NCAA championship in the short-course mile, was the seventh qualifier for the 800-meter freestyle final. In the final, her sixth-place finish in 8:30.97 was a school record and a personal best.
Though Luchsinger blew his personal records out of the water in both the 200-meter and 400-meter freestyle events, with a little more help, DeSelm said Luchsinger really could have done some damage.
“It’s difficult to swallow,” DeSelm said. “He’ll bounce back and recover, but he had his sights on being in that position, to be in the top eight and see what he could do. We missed out on that one.”
Ultimately he finished 12th in the 200-meter butterfly semi-final in 1:59.20, and teammate Dominick Glavich finished 15th, in 1:59.60.
David MacDonald, a 2012 graduate, was the first UNC diver to qualify for the trials since the 1950s. He placed 21st from the 3-meter springboard at the diving trials in Washington.
Some UNC athletes were well off the Olympic mark, but enjoyed the thrill of swimming alongside the world’s greatest. Others, like Luchsinger, Harris and Peacock, aspired to compete for a trip to London.
“Out of 1,800 people, at most 56 make the Olympic team, so there have to be other goals than making the team,” DeSelm said. “To leave here disappointed for not making the team certainly is a reality for some people. But there has to be more than that. Seeing people do best times on a big stage is very, very important.”
Sue Walsh was the last UNC swimmer to make the U.S. team while still in school, although she did so in 1980, when the U.S. boycotted the games in Moscow.
Because swimming and diving are relatively unheralded on campus, seeing swimmers on national television sporting light blue swim caps could have been a pleasant surprise for some Tar Heel fans.
“The atmosphere was great, and it was a lot of fun seeing that many people actually at a swim meet,” said Tommy Wyher, a 2011 graduate who placed 102nd in the 100-meter butterfly event. “But it’s also really stressful. I didn’t swim as well as I could have, which was disappointing, but it was still a great experience.”
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