OMAHA, Neb. The U.S. Olympic Swim Trials can be a cruel business. The goal is to make the team, of course but about 97 percent of the swimmers who are in Omaha will fail to do that.
Think about it. Half the athletes go home happy at the Super Bowl. A quarter of them are celebrating at the end of the Final Four. But in Omaha, a maximum of 52 swimmers will make the U.S. team out of the more than 1,800 that qualified for the meet.
The meet begins Monday at a vast indoor pool set up in the same place where Creighton plays basketball (and very close to where South Carolina is trying to win the College World Series for the third time in a row). Around 14,000 people per night will watch many dreams die and a precious few bloom.
You know about Michael Phelps and maybe, too, about Ryan Lochte those two are shoo-ins for the U.S. team and will make it in multiple events. Maybe you remember Cullen Jones, the N.C. State star who has lived in Charlotte the past four years and won an Olympic gold medal in 2008.
But as the first swimmers get ready to dive into the pool, heres a list of 10 others with North Carolina connections who may make a splash before the meet is over. To qualify for the Olympic team, in most cases the swimmer must finish in the top two of an event.
• Charlie Houchin: A Raleigh native who starred at Raleigh Enloe and then went to Michigan, Houchin could make some noise right away. His best event the 400 freestyle is on Monday night, the first evening that anyone can officially make the team. Houchin has been training in Florida recently his parents were both All-American swimmers at N.C. State.
• Davis Tarwater: How many swimmers do you know who took time off to obtain a Masters degree at Oxford University? Tarwater did. A butterfly specialist who is seeded in the top five in two events, he is trying to get back to Great Britain for these Olympics, which start in London on July 27.
• Nick Thoman: There are no sure things at the Olympic Trials, but Thoman is the only local swimmer who is seeded first in any event in Omaha. Thoman, who has lived in Charlotte since 2009 and represents SwimMAC Carolinas Team Elite, is ranked No.1 in the 100-meter backstroke. His grandfather swam for Yale and once held the world record in the 100-yard backstroke.
• Ricky Berens: Homegrown in Charlotte but now training in California, Berens has a million-dollar smile and is half of one of swimmings power couples (with girlfriend Rebecca Soni, who is Americas best breaststroker). Berens already made Charlotte proud in 2008 with a relay gold medal. In these Olympics, he hopes to again qualify for at least one relay but also to finish in the top two in either the 100 or 200 freestyle so he can swim an individual event in London.
• Kara Lynn Joyce: A recent addition to Team Elite, Joyce is a two-time Olympian and owns four silver medals. She will be a threat in the short freestyle events.
• Madison Kennedy: She will compete alongside Joyce, especially in the 50 freestyle where Kennedy has a definite shot.
• Micah Lawrence: Her best event is the 200 breaststroke, which Soni is heavily favored to win. But Lawrence is seeded third, and the 21-year-old Texas native who swims for Team Elite has a chance to grab the second spot.
• Matt Patton: The Patton twins Matt and Sean grew up in Charlotte, went to high school at Butler and then split up for college (Matt went to Michigan, Sean to Texas). Matt still swims competitively and is seeded sixth in Mondays 400 free.
• Tim Phillips: A butterfly specialist who went to Ohio State, Phillips moved to Charlotte to train under coach Dave Marsh and is seeded third in the 100 butterfly (just ahead of Tarwater). SwimMAC teammate Eugene Godsoe is sixth in the same event.
• Kevin Swander: Considered one of Team Elites finest athletes, Swander is seeded No.5 in the 100 breaststroke in what should be a wide-open race.