Swimming & Diving Trials Blog

FIVE DAYS DOWN, THREE TO GO

June 29, 2012 - 8:45 p.m.

OMAHA, Neb. - Today wasn't the best day for Auburn's swimming contingent here in Omaha. No current members of the squad advanced to a final or semifinal; however, four swimmers did post personal-best marks in their respective events.

But three more days of competition remain, and better swims are almost certainly ahead for the Tigers. Four Auburn swimmers - three current, one former - are seeded in the top 20 of the men's 50 freestyle tomorrow. Katie Gardocki swims her best event tomorrow, too - the 800 freestyle. And Auburn's best remaining chance for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team still remains with Tyler McGill in the 100 butterfly, where he enters this meet ranked third in the world.

Bound for London: Through five days of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, here's a list of the athletes that have qualified for London (although USA Swimming can't officially confirm some of them in the event of the worst-case scenario of having more than 26 qualifiers):

Men:
Nathan Adrian - 100 Free, 4x100 Free Relay
Ricky Berens - 100 Free, 4x100 Free Relay 4x200 Free Relay
Clark Burckle - 200 Breast
Tyler Clary - 200 Fly
Conor Dwyer - 400 Free, 4x200 Free Relay
Jimmy Feigen - 4x100 Free Relay
Matt Grevers - 100 Back, 100 Free, 4x100 Free Relay
Brendan Hansen - 100 Breast
Charlie Houchin - 4x200 Free Relay
Cullen Jones - 100 Free, 4x100 Free Relay
Jason Lezak - 4x100 Free Relay
Ryan Lochte - 200 Free, 400 IM, 4x200 Free Relay
Alex Meyer - 10K Open Water
Matt McLean - 4x200 Free Relay
Michael Phelps - 200 Free, 200 Fly, 400 IM, 4x200 Free Relay
Eric Shanteau - 100 Breast
Nick Thoman - 100 Back
Peter Vanderkaay - 400 Free
Scott Weltz - 200 Breast

Women:
Cammile Adams - 200 Fly
Alyssa Anderson - 4x200 Free Relay
Haley Anderson - 10K Open Water
Elizabeth Beisel - 400 IM
Rachel Bootsma - 100 Back
Claire Donahue - 100 Fly
Missy Franklin - 200 Free, 100 Back, 4x200 Free Relay
Kathleen Hersey - 200 Fly
Ariana Kukors - 200 IM
Breeja Larson - 100 Breast
Caitlin Leverenz - 200 IM, 400 IM
Lauren Perdue - 4x200 Free Relay
Allison Schmitt - 200 Free, 400 Free, 4x200 Free Relay
Rebecca Soni - 100 Breast
Chloe Sutton - 400 Free
Dana Vollmer - 100 Fly, 4x200 Free Relay
Shannon Vreeland - 4x200 Free Relay

Saturday Preview: Four events on tap for Saturday morning's prelims session - men's 50 free, women's 800 free, men's 100 fly and women's 200 back. And Auburn swimmers have a chance to make some noise in all four.

Let's start with the men's 50 free. Former Tiger Bryan Lundquist is seeded 13th, followed closely by Karl Krug (14), Kohlton Norys (15) and Drew Modrov (19). With good swims, pretty decent chance we could see four Auburn swimmers in the semifinals Saturday night.

Rising senior Katie Gardocki's best long-course event is the 800 free. She's already had two good swims this week in the 200 and 400, and seeded 43rd, she looks to close out the week with another strong swim and a personal-best time.

Four Auburn newcomers will swim in the women's 200 backstroke. Incoming freshman Jillian Vitarius is favored to make the semifinal as she comes in with the 16th seed, while another incoming freshman, Caitlyn Forman, is seeded 35th.

But the biggest race for Auburn fans will be the men's 100 butterfly. Tyler McGill is ranked third in the world and second in the U.S. - right behind one Michael Phelps. He's a pretty heavy favorite to advance to the semifinal and then the final. Once there, it's anyone's guess - but McGill is Auburn's best remaining chance at getting another name on the big board back at the Martin Aquatic Center.

As always, follow us on Twitter - @AuburnSwimming - and be sure to check out heat sheets, live video and live timing at USASwimming.org. Only two more days of prelims and three nights of finals left!

--War Eagle--


WHAT A NIGHT - SWIMMING AT ITS BEST

June 27, 2012 - 9:35 p.m.

OMAHA, Neb. - It's a consensus among the assembled media here at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Wednesday's final session was the best so far with incredibly close races, record-setting performances and one HUGE upset.

First - what an effort from Kyle Owens. The 100 backstroke is his best event, and he showed it with his seventh-place finish in the final. Although I'm sure he was a bit disappointed in the finish - he was a little more than a tenth of a second slower than his semifinal time, which was a career-best - this is another step for him toward becoming one of the top swimmers in the country. He'll have another shot later this week in the 200 back, and he'll be back in four years for another shot at the 100 - count on it.

Wednesday's Best: I dare anyone to find a 4x200 team that's better than what the United States will send to London. After the 200 freestyle tonight, where Michael Phelps out-touched Ryan Lochte by .05 seconds, that relay in the Olympics will be tough to beat, especially with Ricky Berens and Conor Dwyer along for the ride. Three of the four - Phelps, Lochte and Berens - were part of the gold medal-winning relay in 2008.

Missy Franklin turned in an incredibly impressive performance in setting a new American record in the 100 backstroke. The 17-year-old took down Natalie Coughlin's mark of 58.94 with a 58.85, securing her spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. Coughlin, meanwhile, finished third - and she's running out of chances to make it back to her third Olympics. But the most impressive part of Franklin's swim? She had just competed in the 200 freestyle semifinals about 15 minutes earlier. With almost no time to warm down and warm back up, she goes out and pops an American record time. Simply outstanding.

But the story of the night belonged to Texas A&M's Breeja Larson, who pulled a huge upset in winning the 100 breaststroke in 1:05.92, out-touching heavy favorite Rebecca Soni by .07 seconds and leaving Soni's teammate Jessica Hardy on the outside looking in. Larson dropped nearly a half-second off her personal best, beating two women whose career-best times were more than two seconds better.

Wednesday's Worst: The images out of Colorado Springs of the devastation from the ongoing wildfires are simply beyond words. With the U.S. Olympic Training Center and USA Swimming headquarters in Colorado Springs, staffers on site here in Omaha are keeping a nervous eye on the news.

USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus released a statement earlier today.

Sold Out: Tickets are completely sold out for Saturday's finals session, which includes finals in the women's 200 breast and 100 free and men's 200 back and 200 IM. Friday's session is almost sold out as well. More than 12,000 fans have packed the CenturyLink Center for each of the first three nights of finals.

London-Bound: Here's the updated list of Americans who have punched their ticket to London for the Olympic Games -

Men: Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, Peter Vanderkaay, Conor Dwyer, Brendan Hansen, Eric Shanteau, Ricky Berens, Matt Grevers, Nick Thoman
Women: Elizabeth Beisel, Caitlin Leverenz, Dana Vollmer, Claire Donahue, Allison Schmitt, Chloe Sutton, Missy Franklin, Rachel Bootsma, Breeja Larson, Rebecca Soni

Thursday Preview: This is where the Tigers get to have some fun. The first sprint freestyle event of the week gets underway Thursday morning with the men's 100 free. A total of 10 swimmers with Auburn ties are entered in that event, including six current student-athletes. Kyle Owens is one of those; however, he hinted that he might scratch that event and focus on the 200 back. Recent graduate Kohlton Norys is the top-seeded Tiger at 24th; Tyler McGill at 28th will likely look at the 100 free as a warmup for his top event, the 100 butterfly, later in the week.

Later in the day, three former Tigers will headline the men's 200 breaststroke. Eric Shanteau, who has already punched his ticket to London, is the top seed. Recent graduate Adam Klein is seeded seventh, and Mark Gangloff comes in at 27th. Only one current member of the team is entered, rising junior Peter Haas.

There is one women's event on the day - the 200 fly - but no Auburn swimmers are entered.

Thursday's Auburn entries (pre-scratch):

Men's 100 Freestyle: Kohlton Norys, Tyler McGill, Bryan Lundquist, Joe Pascale, Kyle Owens, Karl Krug, Drew Modrov , TJ Leon, Zane Grothe, Allen Browning
Women's 200 Butterfly: (none)
Men's 200 Breaststroke: Eric Shanteau, Adam Klein, Mark Gangloff, Peter Haas

That's it from Omaha for tonight - we are almost to 2,500 followers on our Twitter account, @AuburnSwimming. Thanks to everyone for their support!

--War Eagle--


TUESDAY REWIND: ELATION AND HEARTBREAK

June 26, 2012 - 9:40 p.m.

OMAHA, Neb. - The Olympic Trials can be a cruel mistress.

That's nothing new, though. Countless articles, columns and blogs have been written about that very subject. Third place at Trials might as well be last.

Fifth place isn't any better.

Mark Gangloff was looking for his third trip to the Olympics. A gold medalist as part of a relay team in 2008, he wanted one more shot at Olympic glory. And he had it in his sights with nothing but 100 yards of clear, blue water separating him from that goal.

Well, 100 yards of blue water and seven others with the same dream.

Gangloff's fifth-place finish was heartbreaking to most Auburn fans. As coach Brett Hawke told me, the 2005 Auburn graduate has given so much back to the program. He still lives in Auburn. He trains with the Auburn team on a daily basis. He has served as a volunteer assistant coach, helping out the current members of the Auburn team and imparting words of wisdom from 10-plus years of international experience. And always with a smile on his face.

And so it was with a smile on his face - after what had to be one of the biggest disappointments of his life, knowing that it was probably his one last shot - that he still stopped in the "mixed zone" for interviews after his race Tuesday night. Always gracious, always classy -- a true Auburn man in every sense of the word.

On the other side of the coin is another former Tiger - one who just happens to be one of Gangloff's closest friends. Eric Shanteau is headed back to his second Olympics, this time in an event many thought was probably not his best. And Shanteau is a tremendous story in his own right: diagnosed with cancer the week before the 2008 Trials, he held off on surgery and treatment to compete at the Trials and in the Olympics. And now he's back and ready for another shot at the world's best.

Elation and heartbreak. Such a wide range of emotions among the eight men or women in a final at the Olympic Trials. But one that is determined by mere hundredths of a second.

London-Bound: After two nights of competition, the following U.S. athletes are headed to the Olympics:

Men: Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, Peter Vanderkaay, Conor Dwyer, Brendan Hansen, Eric Shanteau
Women: Elizabeth Beisel, Caitlin Leverenz, Dana Vollmer, Claire Donahue, Allison Schmitt, Chloe Sutton

Wednesday Preview: Wednesday is probably the lightest day for Auburn's swimmers. Between current and former athletes, there will only be six swimmers with Auburn ties competing in the preliminaries. Let's take a look at the three events on the schedule:

--Women's 200 Free: This race could have a distinct Georgia flavor to it. Three of the top six seeds (and five of the top 12) are either current or former Lady Bulldogs, led by top seed Allison Schmitt - already London-bound as the 400 freestyle champion. Right behind her is 17-year-old phenom Missy Franklin. Those two figure to be the big favorites, but former Cal standout Dana Vollmer (who already won the 100 butterfly and punched her ticket to London) could be in the mix, along with another former Georgia standout, Morgan Scroggy.

Looking for spots on the 800 free relay team (which will come from a pool of the top six finishers in this race) will be Elizabeth Beisel (who might post a top time and then scratch the final) and another Bulldog, Megan Romano.

Basically, getting to the final here is the key, so these swimmers will go all-out in the semifinals. From there, they've got about a 50-50 chance of making the Olympic team.

Katie Gardocki is the lone Auburn entry; she is seeded 61st. A successful swim for her would include breaking the 2:00 mark for the first time in her career. Her best event, though, is yet to come - the 800 free.

--Men's 200 Fly: This is Michael Phelps' world, and we are all just living in it. Let's face it - no one is beating Phelps in his best event. The race in this one is for second place and everyone knows it. The favorites to grab that second spot on the U.S. team include former Michigan swimmer Tyler Clary, Stanford's Bobby Bollier, or another former Wolverine, Davis Tarwater.

But maybe a couple of dark horses could step up and make some noise. Former Georgia standout Mark Dylla was the NCAA Champion in the event in 2011 and comes into the Trials seeded seventh. And South Carolina rising junior Michael Flach could even surprise some folks. The two-time SEC bronze medalist took an Olympic redshirt this year and is seeded 11th. If those two make the final, anything could happen.

As for Auburn entries, former Tiger Robert Looney is seeded 39th and has a career-best time of 1:58.47; if he hits that mark, he could sneak into the semifinal. His textile-best, though, is a 2:01.41. It will probably take something under 2:00 to crack the top 16. Another former Tiger, Logan Madson, is seeded 59th, while Zane Grothe and Allen Browning are toward the bottom of the seedings and will be looking for best times.

--Women's 200 IM: This one is wide open. Ariana Kukors and Caitlin Leverenz are the top seeds, but realistically, any of about 10 women could crack the top two. Beisel already won the 400 IM and is seeded fourth here. Natalie Coughlin is seeded sixth, although her ticket to London probably rests with the 100 free or 100 back.

Sarah Peterson is the only Auburn entry, seeded 73rd.

Wednesday's Must-Watch Race: Men's 200 Free Final. If the semifinal showdown between Phelps and Lochte was any indication, this should be another incredible battle. The two were separated by a mere .02 seconds in Tuesday's semifinal and will almost certainly be the top two Wednesday night. Any other outcome would be a HUGE upset.

Auburn's Wednesday Schedule:

Prelims
Women's 200 Free:
Katie Gardocki (61)
Men's 200 Fly: Robert Looney (39), Logan Madson (59), Zane Grothe (101), Allen Browning (132)
Women's 200 IM: Sarah Peterson (73)

Finals (7 p.m., NBC)
Women's 100 Breaststroke:
Micah Lawrence (6)
Men's 100 Backstroke: Kyle Owens (7)

That's it for tonight... keep following us on Twitter and spread the word. We've gained a couple hundred followers just in the last three days - thanks for your support!

--War Eagle--


THOUGHTS ON MONDAY NIGHT, AND A TUESDAY PREVIEW

Monday, June 25 - 9:10 p.m.

OMAHA, Neb. - Whew.

That's the sound of the collective media here in Omaha - and about 12,000 fans in attendance - exhaling after seven outstanding races on the first night of finals here at the Olympic Trials.

Ryan Lochte wowed the crowd with a dominating win in the men's 400 IM, out-touching Michael Phelps in the race where Phelps has won two straight gold medals. Then Peter Vanderkaay touched first in an absolutely thrilling race in the 400 free, punching his ticket to London with former Florida swimmer Conor Dwyer making up a ton of ground to overtake Charlie Houchin for second place. And Elizabeth Beisel, a rising junior at Florida, will head to her second Olympics after winning the 400 IM in more dominating fashion, out-touching Cal's Caitlin Leverenz by nearly three full seconds.

If that's a predictor of things to come the rest of the week here at the CenturyLink Center, I would highly recommend setting the DVR. You won't want to miss this.

Tuesday's Races to Watch: Women's 100 Backstroke. Natalie Coughlin is the top seed and the two-time defending gold medalist in the event, but 17-year-old Missy Franklin - some are calling her the best women's swimmer in the world right now - is seeded second, just behind Coughlin.

Those two are the clear favorites with more than a half-second advantage over the third-seeded Rachel Bootsma, but don't count out a strong effort from a pair of SEC standouts, Georgia's Megan Romano and Tennessee's Jenny Connolly. Florida's Elizabeth Beisel could also make noise, although she is probably a better bet in the 200 back. (Then again, so is Franklin.) Should be a fun race.

Men's 200 Freestyle: While Auburn swimmers likely won't be a factor, the 200 free will be the second chance for another Michael Phelps-Ryan Lochte showdown. The two are seeded 1-2 in the event and come into the meet ranked second and third in the world. Phelps is the defending Olympic gold medalist in the event, but Lochte got the best of Phelps at last year's World Championships. Still, Phelps is the American record-holder in the race and is eager to prove he's still the best in the world.

The top four finishers will earn a trip to London as part of the 800m freestyle relay team, so two more spots are up for grabs. Peter Vanderkaay looks like a safe bet for one of those spots, while the other could come down to any of four or five swimmers. The race for third and fourth in this event's final will be worth watching.

Men's 100 Breaststroke Final: Who can forget about the Gangloff-Shanteau showdown? They are the third and fourth seeds, respectively, in the men's 100 breast final. Both will probably need to drop another few tenths to be in the hunt for a trip to London; I believe a sub-1:00 time will be necessary to have a chance. Brendan Hansen didn't look unbeatable by any means, and Gangloff said he had a better race left in him.

Tuesday's Schedule: Day two of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials will be a quite busy day for the Tigers. In all, 19 swimmers with Auburn ties are scheduled to compete, including 12 current student-athletes, three former Tigers and four incoming freshmen or transfers.

The women will take center stage for much of tomorrow's action. Seven of those 19 will compete in the day's first event, the women's 100 backstroke. Five more will compete in the women's 100 breaststroke, and rising senior Katie Gardocki will swim the women's 400 freestyle. Two men's events will take place Tuesday morning with two Auburn entries in the 200 freestyle and four Tigers in the men's 100 back.

Auburn fans should keep their eyes on rising senior Kyle Owens. He enters the 100-meter backstroke as the sixth overall seed in the event with an entry time of 54.20 seconds, the second-fastest time in Auburn history. The native of Johnson City, Tenn., was undoubtedly the Tigers' best swimmer in 2011-12, winning six individual SEC titles and finishing second in the race for the SEC Commissioner's Trophy. He was also Auburn's leading scorer at the NCAA Championships.

He will face some stiff competition with the likes of Nick Thoman, David Plummer, Matt Grevers and Ryan Lochte also among the contenders. But if he swims his race and makes the final, anything can happen.

Rising junior Emily Bos is also right on the cusp of making a semifinal in the women's 100 back. She is seeded 17th with an entry time of 1:01.77. She is only .03 seconds behind the 15th and 16th seeds heading into tomorrow's competition.

Tuesday's events, Auburn entries and seeds listed below:

Women's 100 Backstroke: Emily Bos (17), Caitlyn Forman (27), Jillian Vitarius (29), Aubrey Peacock (35), Sarah Reynolds (78), Olivia Scott (165), Jenny von Jouanne (166)
Men's 200 Freestyle: Allen Browning (93), Zane Grothe (82)
Women's 100 Breaststroke: Micah Lawrence (5), Lauren Norberg (21), Lindsey Norberg (67), Abby Duncan (53), Laura Johnson (114)
Men's 100 Backstroke: Kyle Owens (6), Kohlton Norys (20), Max Murphy (22), Brandon Siemasko (115)
Women's 400 Freestyle: Katie Gardocki (31)

As always, follow @AuburnSwimming on Twitter for real-time updates from the pool deck on all of Auburn's competitors. USA Swimming will have a live webcast of most of the prelims, NBC Sports Network will show the fastest heats of prelims at 5:30 p.m., and NBC will be back on the air at 7 p.m. for finals.

Until tomorrow, good night from Omaha.

--War Eagle--


TRIALS NOTEBOOK - DAY 1

Monday, June 25 - 4:15 p.m.

OMAHA, Neb. -- Emptying the notebook after a long morning at the CenturyLink Center...

Record Watch: The first record of the week fell in the final heat of the second event Monday morning. Dana Vollmer, a gold medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics, set a new U.S. Open and Olympic Trials record in the 100-meter butterfly. Her time of 56.59 eclipsed the previous U.S. Open record of 56.64, set in 2000 by Inge de Brujin, and was nearly a full second better than the Olympic Trials mark of 57.50 from Tennessee's Christine Magnuson in 2008.

One Auburn record came oh-so-close to going down. Zane Grothe's 3:52.82 in his heat of the men's 400 freestyle was a miniscule one-hundredth of a second shy of breaking the school's long-course record, held by Kevin Clements with a 3:52.81 back in 2000.

Arena Buzz: It was hard to miss the crowd's reaction when the 10th heat of the men's 400 IM was announced. After weeks (months?) of speculation as to whether he would actually swim the event, two-time defending gold medalist Michael Phelps got behind the blocks for the 400 IM. He did not disappoint, easily winning his heat in 4:14.72 and grabbing the second seed for tonight's final, just behind former Florida great Ryan Lochte. It should be an electric atmosphere here tonight as (arguably) the two best swimmers in the world go head-to-head for the first time at this meet.

Swim-Off: Olivia Scott's place in the 100 fly semifinal was secured in prelims, but it turned out that she would have had a bit of a security blanket if she had missed by one spot. Jessica Hardy scratched the final - most likely to focus on the 100 back and 100 breast, her better events - to bump Scott up to the 15th seed for tonight.

However, there was a tie for 17th place, necessitating a swim-off between California's Cindy Tran and Southern California's Tanya Krisman. Tran had a big lead at the turn, but Krisman made up a ton of ground and shaved about a half-second off her prelims time to win the swim-off and earn the 16th and final spot in the semifinals.

Long Morning: Today's session was by far the longest and most grueling of the eight-day Olympic Trials program. With three 400-meter races (and a combined 37 heats of those races), it made for a long day for everyone. The original plan by the organizers called for 10-lane prelims (which they did) and flyover starts (which they did not do).

There was about a minute break between each heat in prelims while the swimmers exited the pool (all to the side, climbing over lane lines to do so), plus a slightly longer break between the circle-seeded "championship" heats that were being filmed by NBC Sports Network for tape-delayed broadcast later on today. Add to it the swim-off for the last semifinals spot in the women's 100 butterfly, and the opening session of the 2012 Trials lasted about 45 minutes longer than anyone anticipated. The final race finished at approximately 2:50 p.m. CT, some four hours and 50 minutes after the first race began.

Up for Grabs: Six Olympians will be determined tonight. There will be no semifinals in the 400-meter events, so we will know our Olympians in the men's and women's 400 IM and the men's 400 free after Monday's evening session. The top three seeds in each event are as follows:

Men's 400 IM: Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, Chase Kalisz
Men's 400 Free: Connor Jaeger, Conor Dwyer, Charlie Houchin
Women's 400 IM: Elizabeth Beisel, Caitlin Leverenz, Cammile Adams

If You're Not First (Or Second), You're Last: As the saying goes, there's third - and then there's "Trials third." At the Olympics, a third-place finisher goes home with a bronze medal. From the Olympic Trials, you just go home. Only the top two finishers at the Trials (and the top four in the 100 and 200 freestyle) are guaranteed spots in London.

Check out the story by Yahoo! writer Pat Forde on the crushing nature of finishing third at the Olympic Trials - a feeling former Tiger Eric Shanteau knows all too well: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/olympics--u-s--olympic-swim-trials-excruciating-if-you-finish-third.html

That's all for now... We'll have another post tonight after finals with a preview of Tuesday's action.

--War Eagle--


GANGLOFF-SHANTEAU: TWO TIGERS, TWO SPOTS FOR LONDON

Sunday, June 24 - 1:30 p.m.

OMAHA, Neb. - Best friends. Fierce competitors.

The latter description fits the relationship between former Auburn swimmers Mark Gangloff and Eric Shanteau quite well. The former? Even more so.

Both former Olympians are among the top seeds in the men's 100-meter breaststroke, which will be the fifth event contested on Monday, the opening day of the 2012 Olympic Trials. Gangloff is seeded second and Shanteau fourth.

Both have left their mark in the record book as well. Gangloff is the U.S. Open record holder in the event, swimming a 59.01 at the USA Swimming National Championships in 2009; he also won a gold medal as part of the 4x100 medley relay team in Beijing. Shanteau holds the American record, going .05 faster than his former teammate with a 58.96 just a few weeks later at the 2009 World Championships.

Both were part of Auburn's amazing national championship run in the middle of the last decade. Gangloff and Shanteau were both part of championship teams in 2003 and 2004, and Shanteau was one of the four Auburn seniors in 2006 - along with George Bovell, Kurt Cady and Doug Van Wie - that finished their four-year careers having never lost a dual meet, SEC Championship or NCAA Championship.

But the relationship between the two goes much deeper than the pool.

"My relationship with Mark is probably unique in any competing atmosphere because we're best friends," Shanteau said. "He was a groomsman in my wedding last year. He was kind of like my big brother at Auburn; he was two years ahead of me. We do a great job of balancing being competitors and being friends and knowing when to switch those gears."

Gangloff recalls those early years when Shanteau was a wide-eyed Auburn freshman in 2002.

"I tried to help mentor Eric along when he was a freshman," Gangloff said, "and tried to beat up on him a little bit at times. We started off being really good friends then, and our relationship has grown since then. He was one of the first people I saw on deck when I got here (to Omaha). I gave him a big hug."

The relationship kept growing as the two went to the 2004 Olympic Trials in Long Beach, Calif. That year, Gangloff made the Olympic Team by finishing second in the 100 breast. He was then able to help mentor Shanteau - then a rising junior at Auburn - in the IM events. Shanteau missed a spot in the Games by .34 seconds, finishing just behind then-Florida junior Ryan Lochte.

"We were very close at that Olympic Trials," Gangloff said. "He was swimming in the IMs; he hadn't quite turned into a breaststroker yet. I was trying to help him with my experiences I'd had a few days earlier. After that, he went down to Texas and started training and really started coming on the breaststroke scene. Since then, we've started becoming more competitors, but we've managed to maintain our relationship as friends, and that has grown tremendously since then."

Flash forward to the 2008 Trials. Gangloff once again earned his spot on the Olympic Team with a second-place finish in the 100 breast; Shanteau was fourth. Shanteau would break through in the 200 breast, taking the runner-up spot to punch his ticket to Beijing. A trip to China for the Olympics - where the two would be roommates - would be a life-changing experience .

But the news Shanteau received just a week before the Trials changed his life in a completely different way. A week before heading to Omaha, Shanteau was diagnosed with testicular cancer and was informed he needed surgery. He chose to compete anyway and delayed surgery until after the Olympics.

"That was a tough time," Gangloff said. "I was kind of around him through all that, seeing him go through getting the test results back on a weekly basis. It was very hard for him to focus solely on swimming, which was really difficult."

Shanteau posted a career-best time in the 200 breast at the Olympics, then returned to the U.S. for surgery. Four years later, he is in remission and active in cancer awareness. And after the latest good report from the doctor, he can focus fully on making his second trip to the Olympics.

"From a physical standpoint, everything's really good," Shanteau said. "Health-wise, I had my last screenings in April, and everything was clean and clear. That was a big relief for me in terms of the summer, because it meant I didn't have to go back to the doctor until September. I felt like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders. I'm in a good place in my life. I'm very happy with my swimming career and where I am in terms of training."

The two Auburn alumni will be even happier if they can celebrate a return trip to the Olympics together - a second for Shanteau and a third for Gangloff.

"From the time you go to the ready room and start preparing for your race, you're competitors," Gangloff said. "You shake hands after the race, but I'd say we don't talk a whole lot right after the race is over. But by the next day we're back to our normal selves."

Standing in the way of a possible Auburn double in the 100 breast is two-time defending gold medalist Brendan Hansen. He is again the top seed and the heavy favorite to win the event, leaving just one spot in London up for grabs. But as Gangloff said, anything is possible.

"I have visualized a few times how fun that would be," Gangloff said. "Not necessarily to beat Brendan, but for Eric and I to be celebrating together after that race. That would be awesome."

*****

Championship Central: Monday night will present quite the test of the Omaha police force and other law enforcement and event management personnel. In addition to the first night of finals at the Trials, Game 2 of the College World Series championship will be taking place at TD Ameritrade Park, which is maybe 250 paces from the front door of the CenturyLink Center.

South Carolina will be facing Arizona in the championship series with the Gamecocks looking for their third consecutive national title. Of note: the two schools have combined to send 69 swimmers to the Trials - 13 from South Carolina and 56 from Arizona.

In their pre-championship press conference Saturday, players from both baseball teams were joking that the lobby of the Hilton Omaha - right across the street from the arena - smelled like chlorine.

Monday's Schedule: Aside from the Gangloff-Shanteau showdown in the 100 breast, Auburn will have a relatively busy first day at the Trials. Ten swimmers with Auburn ties are slated to compete in the five events that will be contested on the opening day.

The biggest intrigue on the national stage going into the meet will be in the first race - the men's 400 IM. Michael Phelps is the two-time defending gold medalist and holds every conceivable record in the event, and he is seeded third behind Ryan Lochte and Tyler Clary. If he makes the Olympic team, he would have an opportunity to become the first-ever men's swimmer to win a gold medal in the same event three times. But there has been much speculation - and no definitive word from Phelps or his coach, Bob Bowman - as to whether Phelps will scratch the event from his schedule. So the swimming world will be watching closely to see what happens there.

The other events of the day include the women's 100 fly, where rising junior Olivia Scott figures to be in the mix for a berth in the finals, the men's 400 freestyle, the women's 400 IM and the aforementioned men's 100 breast.

Monday's preliminaries session is expected to last more than four hours, by far the longest day of competition at the Trials. Approximately 70 preliminary heats will be contested, including 15 or 16 in both 400 IM events - both of which will last more than an hour. But be sure to follow @AuburnSwimming on Twitter for live updates from poolside of everything Auburn-related. Live video streaming for most of the preliminary heats will be available through USASwimming.org.

Monday's events, Auburn entries and seeds/times listed below:

Men's 400 IM: Chris Kramer (100th - 4:29.93)
Women's 100 Fly: Olivia Scott (11th - 58.94); Caroline Bryant (154th - 1:01.92)
Men's 400 Free: Zane Grothe (75th - 3:58.30); Robert Looney (101st - 3:59.38)
Women's 400 IM: Sarah Peterson (58th - 4:50.92)
Men's 100 Breast: Mark Gangloff (2nd - 1:00.19); Eric Shanteau (4th - 1:00.31); Adam Klein (27th - 1:02.34); Stuart Ferguson (46th - 1:03.46)

--War Eagle--


OLYMPIC TRIALS: BY THE NUMBERS

Saturday, June 23 - 7:45 p.m.

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa -- Less than 40 hours remain until the start of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials, and the large majority of Auburn's competing athletes have arrived in the Omaha area.

A small contingent of Auburn swimmers - all those swimming in events during the first day of Trials - made their way to Omaha on Friday morning. The rest of the group headed out from Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum around 7 a.m. Saturday, landing at Omaha's Eppley Airfield a little after 12:30 p.m. - no worse for wear after a bumpy flight from Atlanta.

After checking into the team's hotel here in Council Bluffs and resting for a couple of hours, the team made the quick, five-minute drive across the Missouri River to Omaha and the CenturyLink Center for a relaxed warm-up session.

With one more day of practice and preparation until the competition begins Monday, let's take a look at the numbers for Auburn swimming at the Olympic Trials -

  • Total Swimmers at 2012 Olympic Trials: Approx. 2,000
  • Number of available spots on 2012 U.S. Olympic Team: 56
  • Total Preliminary Heats: 371
  • Total Entries: 3,590
  • Competing swimmers with Auburn ties: 42
  • Swimmers on 2011-12 Auburn roster at Trials: 24
  • Former Auburn swimmers at Trials: 10
  • 2012-13 Auburn signees and transfers at Trials: 8
  • Total events entered by Auburn swimmers: 82
  • Seating Capacity of CenturyLink Center for Trials: 13,200 (approx.)
  • Attendance at 2008 Trials (15 sessions): More than 160,000

Links to follow: Check out some of the links below for in-depth coverage of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials.

Don't forget to follow Auburn Swimming on Twitter LogoTwitter and Facebook LogoFacebook all week for updates from poolside. Also, follow the hashtags #AUOlympics and #SwimTrials12 for more coverage.

Coming Sunday: A preview of Monday's first day of action, highlighted by a showdown between Auburn alumni Mark Gangloff and Eric Shanteau in the 100-meter breaststroke.

--War Eagle--